CHICAGO (CBS) — Did you miss the Art Institute Lions? Of course you did, and we did too.
The bronze lion sculptures are now back on their perches on either side of the museum’s front steps, and the museum says they’re “cleaner and greener than ever” after receiving a deep cleaning and a fresh coat of wax.
They left back on June 14 for their first deep cleaning in 21 years. Crews hoisted them back into place just before noon on Tuesday.
The bronze lions were sculpted in 1893 by Edward Kemeys, and were installed in front of the Art Institute the following year. As the Park District notes, the Chicago Tribune in 1894 quoted Kemeys as saying the lions were conceived of as guards for the building. The south lion, Kemeys told the newspaper, is “attracted by something in the distance which he is closely watching,” while the north lion “has his back up, and is ready for a roar and a spring.”
In their 128 years in front of the Art Institute, the lions have become city icons and even mascots – and have suited up to join Chicago in an array of celebrations. They’re outfitted in wreaths every holiday season, and are bedecked in celebratory giant helmets and caps each time the Cubs, White Sox, Bulls, Bears, or Blackhawks see postseason action.
They also have their own quirky Twitter account.
The lions have gone on vacation for conservation work before, the last time in 2001.