The Bajnotti Fountain in Burnside Park, dedicated in 1899, is a beautiful memorial with a romantic story. Italian diplomat Paul Bajnotti of Turin, Italy commissioned the sculpture in memory of his wife, Carrie Brown after her premature death. Entitled, Struggle of Life, the sculpture was designed by Enid Yandell which she described as representing “the attempt of the immortal soul within us to free itself from the handicaps and entanglements of its earthly environments.”
The choice of Yandell to design this sculpture was a radical one in the late 19th century, when the vast majority of sculptures were designed by men. Though not as well known as many of her male contemporaries, her contributions to the art world stretch far beyond Burnside Park.
Enid Yandell was an American sculptor born in Louisville, Kentucky who studied chemistry and art at Hampton College in Louisville before continuing her studies at the Cincinnati Art Academy, where she completed a four year program in just two years. She later studied in France with Frederick William MacMonnies at the Académie Vitti in Montparnasse and eventually fell in love with Paris. From then on, she traveled there frequently and eventually had the opportunity to work with Auguste Rodin. She maintained a studio there and exhibited frequently at the Paris Salon.
Yandell was also an integral member in a group of women sculptors who came to be known as the White Rabbits. Organized by sculptor Lorado Taft, these women completed statues and architectural elements for the Horticultural Building at the World’s Columbian Exposition in Chicago in 1893. Working steadily over the years, Yandell designed many pieces for public spaces, and in 1898 became the first woman member of the National Sculpture Society.
When she wasn’t working, Yandell was committed to work she found socially important. She was a fierce proponent for women’s suffrage and even campaigned for Calvin Coolidge and his pro women’s suffrage platform. She worked with Appui Aux Artists, an organization to provide affordable meals to artists and the Red Cross’ efforts to care for war orphans.
Her work has made a beautiful contribution to the cityscape of Providence and the Bajnotti Fountain creates a beautiful and restful environment in the middle of the one of the busiest spots in downtown Providence, Greater Kennedy Plaza.