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Since childhood, Beuys had been interested in northern European folklore, in which certain animals are endowed with mystical power. The stag had particular significance for him as the mythical guardian of the forest. The yearly shedding and regrowth of its antlers were a potent symbol of rebirth and renewal. In this work Beuys brings together iron – whose cold strength and durability he associated with masculinity and war – with copper, one of the softest metals which he associated with femininity.

July 2010