The tallest sculpture in Spain is officially called El Nacimiento del Hombre Nuevo (Birth of a New Man) but is better known as El Huevo de Colón (Columbus' Egg) egg. Despite its height, however, this huge bronze egg is not so easy to find, hidden in Seville's surburban San Jerónimo park, which is even locked on weekdays.
The monument was erected in Seville in 1995, although it had been intended to be part of a project celebrating the 500th anniversary of the discovery of America in 1492. The delay has different interpretations. Columbus' Egg is surrounded by a web of dubious explanations and even jokes.
It appears that the idea of putting the giant Columbus in the capital of Andalucía was questioned from the very beginning. The image of the Italian explorer in bronze created doubts, even among people who are able to appreciate abstract vision and extraordinary creativity.
Like a chicken, Christopher Columbus is inserted inside the egg, holding a long map with three ships on it - the Niña, the Pinta and the Santa María. The monument was supposed to depict his heading towards the New World. However, it looks like his extended arms are trying to hatch out from the shell made of bronze sails.
Columbus' egg was created by Zurab Tsereteli, a Georgian-born Russian artist internationally renowned for giant, expensive and sometimes even unwanted works.
It is not known, however, whether Tsereteli had been inspired by a legend that links the explorer with an egg.
The apocryphal story refers to the 15th century when Columbus was seeking financial help for his trip to discover the Far East. Once, when dining with some Andalusian nobles, sceptical about his proposed voyage, Columbus is said to have asked for an egg to be brought to him and placed on the table.
He bet the nobles that they could not make the egg stand on its end, but he would do it without any help from anyone. All of them tried and failed.
The last to try was Columbus, who took the egg and tapped it gently on the table, breaking it slightly so it could stand on its end.
In this way Columbus showed that anything can be done by anyone with the right set of skills, but not everyone knows how to do it. Since then the expression "Columbus' egg" has been often alluded to when discussing creativity.
A big fan
Zurab Tsereteli has been considered a big fan of Christopher Columbus. Indeed he has created many bronze "Columbuses". The Seville one was only the first work for his project devoted to the 500th anniversary of the explorer's voyage.
According to the artist's lofty plans, the second work - Birth of a New World - with a colossal bronze Columbus standing on his ship was especially designed to be installed in the United States.
It's said that US President George H. W. Bush, during his visit to Tsereteli's studio in Moscow in 1991, personally picked one of three Columbus models that he liked best.
However, the already-built monument with a height of above 100 metres was rejected by several American cities, including Miami, New York and Baltimore. In the end, according to claims by Russian mass-media, Columbus' head was replaced by that of the Russian tsar Peter the Great and the enormous sculpture was erected in the centre of Moscow. The artist himself denies this version.
In 1998, Puerto Rican Government accepted a 92-metre-tall 600-tonne bronze Columbus as a gift from Russia and spent a couple of million dollars in public funds to bring it to the island and to store it in the western coastal city of Arecibo. However, it was only in 2017 that Birth of the New World was at last erected and inaugurated.
An expensive gift
The Columbus sculpture in Seville was in fact also a gift from Russia. In the 90s the government of Moscow was very generous to Spain, especially to Andalucía. Not only did the Russians donate the Columbus egg, but they also gave Marbella another bronze man by Tsereteli, this one with arms extended towards the sea, called La Victoria, that is now a landmark in Puerto Banús. Both gifts turned out to be an expense for the local authorities because of the transportation and installation costs.
The transportation of the egg from Moscow to Seville was not an easy task. First it was taken by boat to Santurce, a port in the Basque Country, and then delivered by road to Seville. Seven trailer lorries and an additional two special transport lorries were needed to transport 37 large pieces to its destination. The sculpture was inaugurated on 9 October 1995 by Infanta Elena de Borbón and her ex-husband, Jaime de Marichalar.
A smaller and modified statue of the Columbus egg in Seville can be found in Paris, outside the UNESCO headquarters.
Moreover, in Spain there is another Columbus egg. This is situated on the main roundabout in Sant Antoni de Portmany - the second-largest town in Ibiza.
It symbolises the local claim that Christopher Columbus was born in the region around Sant Antoni. However, in comparison to the Seville monument Columbus is not inserted into the egg. Instead, it has an opening large enough to encompass a small metal sculpture of the Santa María, the ship that Columbus used to sail to the Americas.