Ruth Bader Ginsberg, former U.S. Supreme Court justice, gets portrait carving at Grand West Staircase at New York State Capitol

Ceremony with Governor Kathy Hochul (in red).

It is the 78th such artwork and is also meant to honor the state’s role in the women’s movement

Update: artist Meredith Bergmann sent us the following explanation about this work: “The glasses are fabricated in bronze which I painted with acrylic paints to match the stone. They were epoxied into shallow sockets on the sides of the head. The Architect of the Capitol and the committee allowed me to implement this solution, which is without precedent in any of the other carved faces, after I had studied every stone portrait I could find, anywhere, in which the subject is wearing glasses, and after I’d sculpted a clay model of Ginsburg’s face with the glasses attached in a way that could actually be carved in stone. In that model, the glasses were attached like goggles with a thick bridge at the sides. This didn’t work. The carving was copied from my final plaster model (without glasses!) by a young carver, Evan Morse, using a traditional pointing system. I supervised his work and did some detailed finishing of the carving. The red Corsehill sandstone, which was shipped from the original quarry in Scotland, is very fine-grained and great for carving, although it is dotted, in places, with tiny pockets of softer stone.“

A portrait carving of Ruth Bader Ginsberg was unveiled at the Grand West Staircase at the New York State Capitol in Albany. The former justice of the U.S. Supreme Court was for many years the central figure in the politically liberal wing of the institution and played an important role in women’s struggle for equal opportunity. She died in 2022.

The bust was created in sandstone by sculptor Meredith Bergmann and depicts Bader Ginsburg in the portrait style circa 1898, the year the Capitol was completed. She was born in 1944.

The artwork was installed on the 2nd floor of the prestigious staircase, directly above the bust of John Jay, the 1st Chief Justice of the Supreme Court.

At an official appointment, state Governor Kathy Hochul said, “By carving her portrait into the Capitol, we are both honoring Justice Ginsburg’s legacy as a trailblazer for justice and gender equality and also celebrating New York’s history as the birthplace of the women’s rights movement.“

Joan Ruth Bader’s father, her maiden name, had immigrated to the United States from Odessa, Ukraine, and her mother’s grandparents were from Poland. They lived in Brooklyn and attached great importance to the children’s education.

For the Supreme Court, the exceptional lawyer was nominated by the Democratic U.S. President Bill Clinton.

Portrait Carving of Ruth Bader Ginsburg at the Grand West Staircase at the New York State Capitol.

The staircase itself also has the rank of celebrity and after its completion was nicknamed the “Million dollar staircase“ because it had devoured the sum of 1.5 million dollars. It was created from the red Corsehill sandstone from Scotland and has so far carried 77 busts of famous people from the state.

No one had been honored with such a bust since the structure was completed.

Ruth Bader Ginsberg played important roles in legal matters such as equal pay for women. She enjoyed great respect among colleagues and the public because she was also willing to go against majorities on the Court based on her interpretation of the law.

Today, she can also be a symbolic figure for an America in which, despite all the controversies, there has always been a common self-image instead of irreconcilable divisions.

Her answer to the question of when there would be enough women on the U.S. Supreme Court became famous. “When there are nine,“ she said tersely, meaning: when all the Supreme Court justices are women. To explain this surprising statement, she added that, after all, no one had ever been surprised when the justices were all men.

The Million Dollar Staircase

Cornell University

Fotos: Mike Groll / Office of Governor Hochul

Portrait von Ruth Bader Ginsburg an der Grand West Staircase im New York State Capitol.

(06.09.2023, 09.06.2023)