Barefoot Kate

At the south end of the gardens of the palatial estate once owned by Frederick W. Vanderbilt in Hyde Park, New York, stands a marble statue, a female figure known as “Barefoot Kate,” overlooking a reflecting pool. The interesting thing is that Kate is not barefoot and the name Kate has no historical link to Vanderbilt, or to the sculptor, nor can anyone explain the meaning of the informal name. Yet whenever perceptions are misdirected, the misdirection tends to take on a life of its own. In this case, we find the centerpiece of a 2014 publication describing Kate as “dipping her toe into the water,” perpetuating the misdirection that blinds viewers to the fact that she wears sandals, which, in turn, hides the core symbolism and its interpretation.

The truth is that the sculptor-designer, Antonio Galli (1812-1861), has the figure standing on a Persian carpet (indoors presumably) combing her hair, and decades later Frederick Vanderbilt and his garden designer positioned the preening figure facing north, enclosed in a brick and stone shrine. From between two pillars she overlooks a dark mirror-like reflecting pool and the perennial gardens beyond (see Image File #51). Other than the inscription “Professore Galli” on the base and her classification as an Odalisque—a genre erotic female figure—her provenance is uncertain.

An unofficial source says Kate was given to Frederick in 1902 by a sister unnamed. This seems unlikely because the value of the symbolism Kate embodies indicates that Kate was central to Frederick’s deeply meaningful pagan schema for expansion of original gardens that date back to about 1840. I have concluded that she represents an immortal creature, an embodied expression of the Divine Feminine—a goddess. This interpretation of the statue and garden expansion is supported by the fact that Kate’s positioning is such that the sun never rises or sets on her and because the flowers she faces are perennials. That her torso points to magnetic north seems intentional too; everything else is off by five to ten degrees.

Barefoot Kate is apparently one of a kind—unduplicated and uniquely beautiful—and the symbolism tells us, in part, that she is well aware of her higher nature, pleased with her appearance, and elated by life. Surprisingly, this remarkable statue has not been replicated for sale to visitors although she has stood there for more than a hundred years, admired by millions of people from around the world since the National Park Service restored the site.

It is known that Frederick was a grandson of railroad mogul, Cornelius Vanderbilt, and a director of the New York Central Railroad, among others, in which role he continued the family’s control of that industry and enjoyed great wealth. Less well known is that Frederick was a member of a secret society considered more secret than all others, including the infamous Skull and Bones. Vanderbilt’s society, St. Anthony Hall (aka: The Order of St. Anthony), was founded in 1847, on the feast day of St. Anthony, father of all monks. Frederick joined the organization during his tenure at Yale University’s Sheffield Scientific School, from which he graduated in 1876. The connection to St. Anthony is, however, irreverent—not Catholic or Christian—an upside-down version of Anthony wherein Anthony succumbs to the Devil’s temptations, namely: science, wealth, and lust. St. Anthony’s is an elite literary society; St. Anthony was poor and illiterate.

Frederick Vanderbilt donated millions of dollars to the St. Anthony Society. In 1902, the year in which he reportedly acquired the statue, Frederick donated $500,000 to the organization. If the statue was a gift that he received in 1902, my speculation is that it was given to him by the society, or by a society member, not by a sister. His garden expansion project was dominated by lilies and roses, and remains so today. These symbols, together with worship of the Divine Feminine, have been prominent in the nature mysticism of secret societies tracing their roots back to ancient Egypt and perhaps further (see the May, 2014 post: “Grail, Rose, and Cross” and others).

The reflecting pool contains water lilies, and the entire southeast section of the garden complex was (and is) devoted to roses, including New Dawn climbing roses that Vanderbilt personally planted and nurtured. In 1924, Vanderbilt installed an Orpheus Fountain in the Rose Garden. The fountain venerated the Greek god Orpheus, founder of the Orphic Mysteries.


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4 Responses to “Barefoot Kate”

  1. Stark Raven Says:

    Can you elaborate on the geomagnetic positioning of the statue and what it may mean?

  2. PluribusOne™ Says:

    Images reflected on water are, for at least some secret society occultists, an expression of Hermetic philosophy with respect to Heaven and Earth—the eternal and the temporal—and veneration of the “god of reflections” (see Image File #10). Excellent examples are found at monument-reflecting pool sites in the Masonic-designed city of Washington, D.C.—the Washington Monument, for example. The Hermetic dictum “as above, so below” expresses the general rule.

    The siting of the statue is, in my analysis, significant because her torso turns toward magnetic north while the shrine structure and overall gardens are aimed toward true north. This difference between magnetic north and true north at the site is, at present, about thirteen degrees. In 1902 the difference was closer to nine degrees. This may have had some numerological significance related to the statue’s installation. In any case, Kate was most likely aligned with a certain star.

    Some stars, such as Sirius (associated with Isis in freemasonry), are believed to emanate specific subtle energies that can be captured via such alignments. I have not as yet pinpointed a particular star that might pertain to Kate. The Vanderbilt historic site is closed after dark. The star is not Sirius as Sirius does not appear in the northern sky.

  3. PluribusOne™ Says:

    It is an amusing synchronicity that the owner of the property prior to Vanderbilt had the last name of Langdon (Walter Langdon, Jr.). Professor Robert Langdon is the lead character in the Dan Brown novels: Angels & Demons, The Da Vinci Code, The Lost Symbol, and Inferno. Although Brown’s Robert Langdon is fictional, the character is based on a real Langdon: a John Langdon (1946-), known for creating ambigrams. Was Walter an ancestor of John’s? There are John Langdons among Walter’s descendants.

  4. PluribusOne™ Says:

    Adding to the foregoing, I have found that Frederick’s wife, Louise, had a sister named Kate Lee Holmes Anthony who died in 1907. Perhaps she gave it to her sister Louise (Holmes Anthony Vanderbilt) in 1902 and Louise named it after her. The Anthony surname appears to explain why the Vanderbilt garden is of Italian style and the statue is apparently Italian.

    The repetitive presence of the French-modified version of the Medici coat of arms in the Vanderbilt Mansion in Hyde Park appears to indicate that Louise was a descendent of the French branch of the Medici family–perhaps via Catherine de Medici, which may also account for naming the statue “Kate,” especially if sister Kate was named after ancestor Catherine/Katherine.

    This may explain how my Van Wagner ancestors came to acquire the Vanderbilt farm property (on part of which my house stands today). The Van Wagners who pioneered the Mid-Hudson Valley and fought in the American Revolution were descendants of French royals, and Catherine de Medici was married to Henry II of France.

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