Object of the Month: June 2020

This month's highlighted object is a sculpture by Jamaican artist Ronald Moody.

Published: 1 June 2020

Chosen by

Sophie, Collections Team


Fine Art

Object Name

‘Man… His Universe’

Place made


Object information

Ronald Moody, 1969, fibre-glass.

One of the more unusual sculptures in our collection, “Man… His Universe” was made by Jamaican-born sculptor Ronald Moody in 1969. A double-sided head is encircled by a mythical hybrid creature with the foot of a lion, body of a snake and the head of a bird. On each side of the snake’s body are symbols – one side bears a sun, fish and leaf, the other side bearing a symbol of the world, a six-pointed star and a bomb.

Born in 1900, Moody was brought up and attended college in Jamaica before moving to London in 1923 to train as a dentist. Whilst studying dentistry, an encounter with the art and artefacts of ancient Egyptian at the British Museum inspired him to learn to sculpt, and he set about teaching himself a range of sculpting techniques. Moody first started carving wood sculptures in the 1930s, completing his first piece Wohin in 1934. By the end of the 1930s he had produced several large works, found success as an artist in London and moved to Paris for two years, only to flee the city in 1940, two days before it fell to the advancing German troops. He returned to England in 1941, and continued to work as a sculptor.

Moody’s experience during the World War Two profoundly shaped his outlook on life and his sculptures. “Man …. In his Universe” shows two sides to a person and two set of symbols – one set which reflect on organic life and nature, and the other on the universe and destruction. Moody is reflecting on humanity's search for spiritual growth against its capacity for self-ruin and how they co-exist. Beyond this, there are more symbols to be unravelled in and their possible meaning, the two-faced figure might represent the Roman god Janus, the god with two faces, and what further symbolism behind the bird, lion and snake?

In 1967, Moody became a member of the Caribbean Artists Movement, participating in its many exhibitions and meetings, and in 1978 he was awarded the Musgrave Gold Medal, Jamaica's highest cultural award. His legacy ascended to new heights in 2008, when the crater ‘Moody’ on planet Mercury was named in his honour.

Three of Moody’s sculptures in our collection were gifted by Ronald’s niece, Cynthia Moody, who inherited Moody’s estate after his death in 1984 and dedicated herself to promoting her uncle’s art.

See this object on ArtUK the online home for every public art collection in the UK.