Prometheus and Vulture Audio Guide

Koren Der Harootian

American, born in Armenia, 1909–1992

Prometheus and Vulture

62 1/2 × 33 3/4 × 15 1/2 inches

Photography not permitted
Lent by The Metropolitan Museum of Art
Gift of Haik Kavookjian, 1948

Location: Bass Concert Hall Lobby, Sixth Floor
GPS: 30.285849,-97.731548
Audio file

Valerie Fletcher: Koren Der Harootian was born in 1909 in Armenia; it was then Turkey and his family fled the area, as did so many Armenians under the repressive regime of the Turks. He and his family came to the United States and settled in Worcester, Massachusetts, which actually was a nexus for Armenian immigrants. It was there in Worcester that Der Harootian first learned about art from the local, quite good museum. He lived a peripatetic life living in various places, but eventually worked in Philadelphia, where in 1975, he did a monument commemorating the Armenian genocide. The sculpture, Prometheus and Vulture in marble from 1948 is characteristic of many post-World War II sculptures that turned to classical Greco-Roman mythology as a means of expressing their angst and suffering of the war.

Der Harootian’s sculpture, Prometheus and the Vulture from 1948, draws upon the well-known ancient Greek myth of Prometheus who defied the patriarchal dominant god Zeus. Prometheus in secret brought them knowledge and skills ranging from the alphabet to medicine. The most important of course of his gifts was fire. Fire, which allowed them to not only be warm in the winter and to cook but also to make metal such as bronze, and therefore to advance their technological knowledge and military abilities. This angered Zeus so greatly that he chained Prometheus to a mountain crag and everyday, Zeus sent his vulture to rip out Prometheus’s liver and eat it. Each night as Prometheus slept, his liver would regenerate and the vulture would come back the next day.

This was a tremendous analogy to the amount of suffering and oppression, death and misery that had occurred during World War II. However, the story of Prometheus has an optimistic ending. Eventually, the hero Hercules would come and release Prometheus from his bondage and suffering. And so the story was a clear analogy to the millions and millions of people whom after years of World War were finally released from their suffering and oppression.