Kensington Gardens : The Albert Memorial and its sculptures (Assessment 3 – presentation)

September 5, 2009

My topic is about the Kensington Gardens: Prince Albert Memorial and its sculptures.


Kensington Gardens - Albert Memorial

Kensington Gardens were part of Hyde Park for over 100 years. The healthy climate of the area attracted King William and Queen Mary who were the first to create a separate park and build their palace at that location.  The place went through various transformations until today. Today it is a nice recreational place, very popular for sunbathing, jogging and walking.   Many monuments decorate the various sections of the Parks. One of them is the Prince Albert Memorial which also is one of the greatest sculptural achievements of the Victorian era. The architect and coordinator of the committee for the construction of the monument was George Gilbert Scott who designed it in the gothic style. The monument was commissioned by Queen Victoria to honour the memory of her beloved husband Prince Albert.  The composition consists of  a large statue of Albert seated in a vast Gothic shrine, and includes a frieze with 169 carved figures, angels and virtues higher up, and separate groups representing the Continents, Industrial Arts and Sciences. Other marble figures represent manufacture, commerce, agriculture and engineering. On the top there are bronze statues of the angels and virtues.  The frieze which runs around the base has carvings of poets, sculptors, painters, musicians and architects,  a total of 187 carvings.Also there are four more groups with statues of  Europe, Asia, Africa and The Americas at the four corners. The central figure is that of Prince Albert seated. Under him there is the podium consisting of sixteen surfaces. There are sculptures dedicated to poetry, music and painting.


Prince Albert






Statue of Europe


Statue of Africa


Statue of Asia


Statue of America

At the Memorial canopy there are four mosaics which depict the four arts (poetry, painting, architecture and sculpture.)  Two historical figures support them on each side. These are King David and Homer who stand for poetry, Apelles and Raphael who represent painting, Solomon and Ictinus who represent architecture and Phidias and Michelangelo who stand for sculpture. Further up, is the canopy and one can see the dedication bellow the cornice of the canopy which reads; Queen Victoria and her people – To the memory Of Albert Prince Consort – As A Tribute Of Their Gratitude – For A Life Devoted To The Public Good.  The four sciences Astronomy, Geometry, Chemistry, Geology are represented on the pillars of the canopy. A little further down there are four more statues on the niches of the canopy representing the practical arts Rhetoric, Medicine, Philosophy and Physiology. The Bronze figures of Astronomy, Chemistry, Rhetoric and Medicine are works of Armstead.


As we look up we see eight more statues at the top of the canopy’s tower representing moral and Christian virtues that is the four cardinal virtues and the three theological virtues which are Faith, Hope, Charity, Humility, Fortitude, Prudence, Justice, and Temperance. Further up, there are angels and at the very top a gold cross.

The whole monument is characteristic of the artistic tendencies of the Victorian age and the artistic likes and passions of Prince Albert.

The monument  was opened to the public in 1872, and the statue of Albert was installed in 1875. The sculptor chosen was Carlo Marochetti, a favorite of Queen Victoria. He drew  two designs for statues of Albert, none of which was considered right, and was working on a third when he died.  J. H. Foley who was selected in his place, presented a statue, cast in many parts, but himself died before they could be assembled. That task was left to Thomas Brock, his assistant at that time. According to older sources another pupil of Foley’s, G. F. Teniswood, also participated in the completion of the statue.

The master sculptor who coordinated the designing of the statuary of the memorial was H. H. Armstead. He made the Sciences, and together with J. Birnie Philip, made the 169-figure Frieze of Parnassus.  J. B. Philip also designed the angels, and the eight Virtues were sculpted by J. F. Redfern.   The mosaics were made by Salviati of Murano.

The Albert Memorial suffered from the general discomfort with all things Victorian during later periods, and due to time, pollution and weather suffered structural damage. For a while at the beginning of the 1990s there was a lively debate as to what should be done with it. One option was conservation, which however was considered rather expensive, and for a while destruction was genuinely put forward as the most reasonable solution. Fortunately, the voices which favoured conservation prevailed and  the Memorial was saved. The cost was £10 million, but considering the importance of the work, and the fact that it is equivalent to many separate works of art, this seems quite reasonable.  Anyway, after being covered with scaffolding for ages, the Albert Memorial is now supposedly as good as when it was put up in the first place, and an absolute must for the visitor to London who cares about Victorian art.


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