Relay Carnival, 1925, Bronze
Robert Tait McKenzie (Canadian, 1867 – 1938)
Embodying both solemnity and experience, Benjamin Franklin congratulates four young athletes adorned with nothing but the relay’s baton and a resolute grace worthy of the first Greek Olympians. Similarly, the laurel branch Benjamin Franklin awards to the group for their victory references the original prizes granted in Ancient Greece to the winners of the sporting events McKenzie and his contemporaries held in such a high regard. Underneath the scene, an ornamental lightning bolt stands as a multi-layered representation of both Franklin’s own achievements in electricity as well as the speed of the victors.
R. Tait McKenzie designed this artwork during the 30th commemoration of the renowned Penn Relays – an international athletic competition hosting nearly 3000 competitors from around the world. Hosted at Penn’s Franklin Field, the Relays are the oldest, largest track and field competition in the United States. One can easily imagine McKenzie in such an environment: relishing the prowess, precision, and effort demonstrated by the best athletes of his time – athletes like the four models used for this piece, three of whom later became Olympic champions. To immortalize and celebrate these feats, the artist designed this medal, which was in turn struck in different variations: the largest, for example, was to be hung as a shield by sport clubs; meanwhile, the smallest version was meant for individual distribution.
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