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Public Statues and Sculpture Association

Joseph Mendes da Costa (1863–1939)

Mendes da Costa was a Dutch Jewish sculptor, who was born and died in Amsterdam. His father was a stone-carver. He studied between 1882 and 1885 at the School of Decorative Arts of Amsterdam, learning sculpture in the so-called Quellinus School. Here he met Lambertus Zijl, with whom he established a firm specialising in architectural sculpture. From around 1901, he became one of the leading exponents of a distinctive, integrated architectural sculpture, whose principles derived from the rationalism of Viollet-Le-Duc, but to which the generation of Mendes da Costa brought new exotic and expressionist ingredients. He contributed sculpture to H.P. Berlage’s Amsterdam Stock Exchange, to Kropholler and Staal’s De Utrecht Insurance building in the Damrak and to many other buildings of the Amsterdam School. Between 1915 and 1922 he worked on a monument to the Boer leader, Christian de Wet, commissioned by Mrs Kröller-Müller, wife of the Dutch shipping magnate, for the Hoge Veluwe National Park at Otterlo. In the City of London, Mendes da Costa carved a stylised steamship’s prow on the corner of the London headquarters of the Müller Shipping Company, Holland House, in Bury Street (1914–16; architect H.P Berlage).

Bibliography: Y. Koopmans, Muurfast & Gebeiteld/ Fixed & Chiselled, Amsterdam, 1994; P. Ward-Jackson, Public Sculpture of the City of London, Liverpool, 2003, pp. 58, 59.

Philip Ward-Jackson, 2003