University Museums

Title: Janus Agri Altar Maquette
Name: Sculpture
Date: 1986
Medium: Bronze with wood base
Dimensions: 15 3/4 x 8 3/4 in. (40 x 22.2 cm)
Classification: Art on Campus Preparatory Studies and Maquettes
Credit Line: Commissioned from the artist by University Museums, Iowa Art in State Buildings Project. In the Art on Campus Preparatory Studies and Maquette Collection, Christian Petersen Art Museum, University Museums, Iowa State University, Ames, Iowa.
Object Number: U87.307
More Information
Artist’s maquette for Janus Agri Altar, by Beverly Pepper located in the Agronomy Building courtyard.

The Janus Agri Altar model and sculpture were fabricated at Pepper's studio and foundry in Todi, Italy. The title of the sculpture makes reference to the two-faced Roman god Janus, who is identified in mythology with beginnings, ending, sowing, and passages or gates. While representations of Janus are typically horizontal, Pepper created the sculpture on a vertical plane, reminiscent of an image reflected in a pool of water. Janus Agri Altar is intended to be a peaceful symbol of self-reflection, looking inward and outward, forward and backward. This sculpture signifies the dependence of Iowa State and civilizations around the world on Agronomy, the study of soil, seeds, and sky. Pepper designed this sculpture to resemble two huge spades connected with a common handle thus portraying two components of agriculture, its continued contribution to society and its rich cultural heritage. Iowa State was founded on the study of agriculture and agronomy and these areas have remained core disciplines for Iowa State for close to 150 years.

(The following from "Subject to Change" exhibit)
Beverly Pepper (American, b. 1924)
Maquette for Janus Agri Altar, 1986
Purchased by the Iowa Art in State Buildings Program for the Agronomy building. In the Art on Campus Model and Maquette Collection, University Museums, Iowa State University, Ames, Iowa.

This bronze model is a preparatory study for Pepper's Janus Agri Altar, located in the Agronomy Courtyard. How humans cultivate land defines civilizations, as civilizations did not evolve until agriculture both domesticated animal husbandry and crop cultivation was established. The sculpture references ancient digging adzes or spades, the first tools used to cultivate land, and is symbolic of the link between the past and the future of agronomy at Iowa State University, in Iowa, and the world.

Broken relic of tillage
Where is the point?
Buried in the soil, like so many memories?
Missing, like hopes past, trials forgotten, and dreams lost?

Monument to a species
whose ambitions rise above nature?
who uses iron to bend nature to its will?
who nourishes the earth or mines it?

Symbol of a tool that
cultivates seeds or plants civilizations?
strengthens the weak or powers the strong?
breaks ground to raise grain or to raise thought?

Tribute to what is here or what is missing?
to those who bear its presence?
to those who claimed its history?
to those who will hold its future?

- Janus Agri Altar, from The Thousand Words Project. Russ Mullen