You would not want to mess with him. At 14 feet tall and 8 feet wide, he would be a formidable adversary in any scuffle. Fortunately, this guy is very friendly and now stands on the corner of Main Street and River Road at the Centers for Culture and History in Orleans (the CHO), doffing his feathered hat and wishing us all “Happy Holidays.”
Created by Cape Cod artist Michael Magyar, the Duc d’ Orleans is one of several sculptured “Giants” in town commissioned by the Orleans Improvement Association and Cape Cod Five Cents Savings Bank. Built of welded steel rods that are covered in wire and multi-colored holiday lights, the sculpture was a gift to the community from the Orleans Cultural District and the Orleans Cultural Council, in collaboration with the CHO.
The only town on the Cape with a French name, Orleans’ roots date back to 1644. In that year, the Nicholas Snow family was one of seven to receive a tract of land from the Plymouth Colony court that extended from bay to ocean on the outer Cape. Their tract, then called Namskaket, was the only one of the seven that was within the land that became Orleans in 1797.
Fast-forward several generations to Isaac Snow who served in the Revolutionary War on both land and sea. During his service, Snow was captured twice by the British. On one occasion he escaped from his prison ship and made his way to France where he likely became aware of the highly popular Louis Phillippe Joseph, duc d’ Orleans (Duke of Orleans). At that time, the Duke was a 30-year-old naval officer, cousin of the king, and one of the wealthiest men in France. He was then, and remained until his death in 1793, a strong proponent of the cause of liberty, hailed as “Citoyen Egalité” by the French people.
In 1797, pro-French sentiment was quite strong in the new United States, both in gratitude for that country’s assistance during the Revolutionary War and for the pro-liberty struggles that were occurring in France at the time. The story goes that it was Snow’s suggestion that prompted the local committee and the State Legislature to name the newly incorporated town in honor of the Duke of Orleans.
To reflect the town’s heritage, artist Magyar was commissioned to create the Duke sculpture last year. A glass artist, Magyar arrived on the Cape in 1992 and opened The Glass Studio in Sandwich. He also enjoys working in metal, and created his first holiday light figure, a glassblower, four years later to put out in front of his studio. Then a neighbor asked if one could be made for him, and the “Giants” spread to other Cape towns--as did their popularity with each successive holiday season.
So, the CHO is ready to Duke it out and say:
"Merry Christmas and Happy Holidays to all".