Thornlea’s “Guardian Angel”

I would like to introduce you to the “guardian angel” of Thornlea, the home of Henry Scripps Booth and Carolyn Farr Booth. She is a flying winged spirit guardian, sometimes called a cradle guardian or spiritchaser, made in Bali, Indonesia.

Spirit guardian in the entrance hall of Thornlea House.

Spirit guardians have been used in Balinese temples and homes to ward off evil spirits for centuries. Typically, they are hung in a high location, looking down towards a door or window. 

Thornlea’s “Guardian Angel” flies high above visitors to the home, 2019. Photo by PD Rearick, CAA ‘10

Thornlea’s guardian hangs high above the entrance hall to the house, gazing down on all who enter. The guardian is in the form of Dewi Sri, who, in Balinese mythology, is the goddess of rice, fertility, a successful harvest, and family prosperity and harmony.  

Archival records point to Henry Scripps Booth purchasing the guardian in San Francisco, not in Bali, between 1978 and 1988 (Ed. note: per HSB’s grandson Charlie’s recollections in the comments below, the guardian was bought about 1984). 

In June 2020, our Associate Curator Kevin Adkisson took visitors on a virtual tour of Thornlea House. Here is a clip featuring Dewi Sri:

Cranbrook Center for Collections and Research’s Facebook Live at Five: Tour Thornlea House, June 17, 2020,

The next time you visit Thornlea, make sure to look up and say “om swastiastu” to Dewi Sri and ask her for prosperity and harmony for your family!

Leslie S. Mio, Associate Registrar, Cranbrook Center for Collections and Research

A Sculpture So Nice They Named it Twice

One of my many duties here at the Center for Collections and Research is to maintain the sculptures on the campus. This can mean finding conservators to repair works, contractors to clean them, or, in some cases, clean them myself. Recently, I was working on a sculpture in the gardens at Cranbrook House. I had seen the sculpture before but wondered about its backstory. Turns out it was a tale of two names.

The sculpture is Mario Korbel’s statue Atalanta, the Greek goddess of the hunt, travel, and adventure. It was commissioned by George Gough Booth in 1927 for one of the gardens at Cranbrook House, part of a series of work Korbel completed for the Booth house and gardens — including Dawn and Harmony in the gardens and Andante and Nocturne in the house.

Letter from Mario Korbel to George G. Booth, referencing both his works Atalanta and Andante. George Gough Booth Papers, Cranbrook Archives.

July 12, 1927 letter from Mario Korbel to George G. Booth, referencing both his works Atalanta and Andante. George Gough Booth Papers, Cranbrook Archives.

Booth, admiring the beauty of the clear, white marble of Atalanta, transferred the work into the collection of the Art Museum. It was part of the original art museum exhibition in 1930.

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Atalanta (left) in the first Art Museum exhibition in 1930. Courtesy Cranbrook Archives.

Later, Booth wrote: “We have finally concluded that the figure will make a very important and striking center art element in connection with the new School for Girls at Cranbrook.” When the Kingswood dormitory was built, the sculpture was transferred to Kingswood and installed on the terrace.

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Atalanta (right) adorns the terrace at the Kingswood School for Girls dormitory in this undated photo. Courtesy Cranbrook Archives.

In 1969, the sculpture was vandalized and smashed into many pieces (no one was ever implicated in the crime–or at least, their name isn’t in my file!). Those pieces were put back together, but when Atalanta was finally repaired, she was not as pristine. Henry Scripps Booth decided to rename her Ecolo. He also wrote a verse to explain the new name:

Ecolo, Goddess of Earth 

Who is this sweet maid who stoops protectively to save the earth from man’s pernicious tread? 

It is the blithe spirit of Ecology by whom all life and natural things are fed.

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Ecolo in her new home in the Herb Garden at Cranbrook House.

Ecolo, or the sculpture-formerly-known-as-Atalanta, now greets visitors in the Herb Garden at Cranbrook House.

– Leslie S. Mio, Associate Registrar

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