I’m still researching this one, so please jump in if you’re familiar with the story.
The Pulitzer fountain, dedicated in 1916 on the south side of Grand Army Plaza in New York City, is the result of a $50,00 gift from Joseph Pulitzer. It was created by Austrian born sculptor Karl Bitter.
The day his clay model was finished, Bitter was killed leaving the Metropolitan Opera House, struck by a car that jumped the curb. The final sculpture was finished by his assistant. It’s not known whether Bitter was aware that Pulitzer actually conceived the project as a sublime insult.
Railroad and shipping heir William H. Vanderbilt had built an opulent French renaissance style mansion between 58th and 59th streets in 1880, the grandest house in the city, which was inherited in 1914 by Cornelius Vanderbilt III. In the social order of the Gilded Age, Pulitzer and the younger Vanderbilt were fierce rivals, and Pulitzer was among those who considered the overblown chateau a vulgarity.
Bitter’s sculpture of Pomona, the goddess of abundance, was carefully positioned to give the Vanderbilts an inescapable view of her oversized posterior.