The “Boy with Thorn” sculpture is the first thing guests see upon entering the Front Drive and the last thing they see upon departure. It maintains a silent dialog with guests throughout their stay – whenever they look down from their Plaza suite, come or go during their stay, or relax on the patio, “Boy with Thorn” is ever present. On occasion, the hotel staff gives a whimsical assist to the statue’s messaging – with a scarf and hat on a wintry day or fan gear to support a hometown team in a big game.
The hotel’s artistic landmark is layered in history. “Boy with Thorn,” also called Fedele or Spinario, is a subject that dates to a Greco-Roman Hellenistic bronze sculpture circa third century BCE, with Roman marble interpretations of a boy withdrawing a thorn from the sole of his foot as early as the first century CE. The J.C. Nichols Company, developer and original owner of both the Country Club Plaza and The Raphael, commissioned Italian sculptor Bernhard Zuckermann to create a heroic scale “Boy with Thorn” replica of the original figure created by an unknown artist for the Medici Collection, now featured in the Uffizi Gallery in Florence. Zuckermann sculpted the white marble statue set upon an onyx-veined Tuscan travertine marble base from his Pompeian Studios in Carrara, Italy. The sculpture was installed in the landscaped courtyard of The Raphael in 1976. It is considered one of the Country Club Plaza’s notable works of art.
“Boy with Thorn” is equally rich in symbolism. As the architect of the 1920s vintage building chose Italian Renaissance architecture as a Mediterranean compliment to the Country Club Plaza’s Spanish motifs and the owners named the hotel for one of the most notable Italian Renaissance artists, it seems only fitting that a contemporary Italian artist would be chosen to honor a work representative of the height of Italian Renaissance artistic achievement. Appropriately, “Boy with Thorn” faces out to the Country Club Plaza, a place where visitors may immerse themselves in the distinct culture and beauty of an aspiring city.