At 120 inches in height, this piece is an undeniable presence in the courtyard where it stands. Etrog’s earlier sketches show a variety of angles at which the central protrusion could have risen, but the final version of the piece reaches skyward, mirroring the brick promontories that distinguish the Cummings Life Sciences center from other buildings on campus. This piece was not sculpted for this location, but it was specifically chosen by Nathan Cummings from his personal collection as part of a donation of multiple sculptures to surround the new building upon its completion. It was designed to be outside and it stands strong against the busy corner of the campus it now occupies.
Most often surrounded by bikes, Pulcinella II stands erect and phallic in a hidden patio balanced on a bulbous base, grabbing the attention of the curious like its street performing namesake. The round base is the smoothest part of the sculpture; as it rises into the air, the surface of the bronze is increasingly pitted and scarred as the scoring of the metal becomes deeper and more irregular. Covered in a thick, black glaze, the sculpture is extremely noticeable against the light brick of Cummings and Crerar. Its presence is made all the more impressive by the serpentine links that wrap around the central axis of the piece. Heavy and undeniably present, the chain extends east–to–west expanding the space of the sculpture on the patio. This piece does not invite the visitor to sit or lean on it; it aggressively takes up space, insisting the viewer act as an audience rather than a scene partner.
In spite of this aggressive colonization of horizontal space, the primary thrust of the piece is upward. Just like its namesake who forever schemes beyond his station, the sculpture’s phallic central form stretches skyward, drawing to a sabre–like point when it can reach no higher. Whereas Pulcinella’s traditional black servant’s garb forces him into the background of a scene, here the black paint forces the viewer to engage with the presence of the sculpture on this hidden patio. This impulsive, aggressive artwork asserts itself within the space it occupies in the same way the character has to assert himself in a scene. In some ways it is the perfect piece to pair with the beginning of the Medical Campus and the Science Library. Originally paired with Poncet’s Oreillart—a smooth, yonic marble that used to sit at the south entrance to the Cummings Life Sciences Center—Pulcinella II’s aggressively masculine colonization of space and impossible aspirations seem to present the ideal counterpoint to Oreillart’s graceful presence.
A great deal of care and attention was also paid to how the sculptures would interact with the buildings around them; Nathan Cummings and the University’s Vice President of Institutional Development John J. Piva Jr. traded many letters over the course of the installation to thank Piva for the “attention to all of the matters relating to the placement and installation of the two new sculptures.” Even now with Etrog’s Mother and Child in place where the Poncet marble once stood, the southern sculpture seems to represent the cautious, graceful ideals of science whereas Pulcinella II's belligerent occupation of space can be said to represent the riskier leaps one sometimes must take in research. This balance of the rational and irrational can be seen in the sculptures themselves as well; the much more physically grounded and rounded Etrog work to the south still reaches forward and upward while the belligerently stretching and pointed Pulcinella II is weighted down by the heavy links looped around the base. Etrog captured the spirit of a centuries old stock character, and Nathan Cummings embraced the contradictory nature of that character in his selection of the perfect sculptures to bracket the Life Sciences Center.