Archive for the ‘VT1013 Study Skills’ Category


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.


Kensington Gardens : The Albert Memorial and its sculptures (Assesment 2)

September 5, 2009

Kensington Gardens

The Albert Memorial is located in Kensington Gardens an area that covers 260 acres. It was built in memory of  Prince Albert, Queen Victoria´s husband, who died of typhoid fever at the age of 42.

Kensington Gardens was part of Hyde Park for over 100 years. It was Henry VIII’s favorite place for hunting. But in 1689 the new King and Queen William and Mary had the idea to create a separate park. They bought Nottingham House, on the western side of Hyde Park and named it Kensington Palace and made it their home. The Queen created a garden which grew bigger when Mary’s sister Anne became Queen. However it was Queen Caroline, wife of George II,  in 1728  who really transformed the Gardens. She took another 300 acres from Hyde Park and hired landscape designers to create an English style garden and change the design. The Palace was the focus of the garden as well as the Round Pond in front of it. They also created a natural-looking lake called the Long Water. The gardens were a fashionable place and was open to public on Saturdays provided that the visitors were ‘respectably dressed’. The gardens lost their glory when Queen Victoria moved the court to Buckingham Palace.

The Gardens are particularly popular for sunbathing and picnics. King William III who was an asthma sufferer found the place quiet and air very healthy and that is when Queen Anne had enlarged the Palace Gardens. One of the most popular features in the Gardens is the bronze statue of Peter Pan. This statue shows Peter Pan standing on a pedestal covered with squirrels, rabbits and mice. There are statues of John Hanning Speke, the explorer who discovered the Nile and Edward Jenner, who developed a vaccine for smallpox. Today, a children’s play ground has also been opened in memory of Diana, Princess of Wales.


Kensington Gardens - Kensington Palace and Queen Victoria Memorial


Peter Pan statue

Albert Memorial

The Albert Memorial is one of the greatest representations of Victorian art. The official title was the Prince Consort National Memorial. It celebrates Victorian achievement and Prince Albert’s

passions and interests. Queen Victoria had it built in memory of her beloved husband, Prince Albert of Saxe Coburg – Gotha.  When Prince Albert died on 14 December 1861, the authorities and scholars around the Queen expressed several thoughts as to what they could do to honor the Prince.  They thought to establish a University or international scholarships.  But the Queen insisted on building a memorial “in the common sense of the word.”  A committee was appointed to undertake the project and make the design which was going to be approved by the Queen. The committee changed composition several times due to the deaths of  two of the main people. Finally, in May 1862 a committee of seven architects submitted two designs to the Queen in February 1863 and in April of the same year George Gilbert Scott´s design was approved.

The Memorial was designed by Sir George Gilbert Scott in the gothic revival style. “My idea in designing the Memorial,” Gilbert Scott wrote, “was to erect a kind of ciborium to protect a statue of the Prince; and its special characteristic was that the ciborium was designed in some degree on the principles of the ancient shrines. These shrines were models of imaginary buildings, such as had never in reality been erected; and my idea was to realise one of these imaginary structures with its precious materials, its inlaying, its enamels, etc, etc.” ( p.1). It was opened in 1872 and the statue of Albert was installed in 1875.


Albert Memorial

The monument consists of the central figure which is the statue of Prince Albert seated. It is surrounded by the so called Frieze of Parnassus which is decorated by various sculptures.  These depict 169 individual composers, architects, poets, painters, and sculptors, musicians and architects all of which aim to show Albert´s enthusiasm for the arts and sciences.  The whole composition is very allegorical.  There are: four groups which depict Victorian industrial arts and sciences (agriculture, commerce, engineering and manufacturing),  and four more groups with statues of  Europe, Asia, Africa and The Americas at the four corners.  Each continent-group includes several ethnographic figures and a large animal.  There is one animal for each one of the continents: A camel for Africa, a buffalo for America, an elephant for Asia and a bull for Europe.  This great work was coordinated by the sculptor Henry Hugh Armstead as well as other artists of the Royal Academy.


Frieze of Parnassus

The mosaics of the Memorial’s canopy show more allegorical figures both at the exterior and the interior of the whole. The four mosaics of the exterior show the four arts (poetry, painting, architecture and sculpture) and they are supported by two historical figures on each side. The historical figures are: King David and Homer (poetry), Apelles and Raphael (painting), Solomon and Ictinus (architecture), and Phidias and Michelangelo (sculpture). The materials that were used in the mosaics include enamel, polished stone, agate, onyx, jasper, cornelian, crystal, marble, and granite.

A dedicatory legend divided into four parts is below the cornice of the canopy. The legend 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. There are four statues on the pillars of the canopy which represent the four sciences: Astronomy, Geology, Chemistry and Geometry.

Four more statues which represent the practical arts are on the niches Rhetoric, Medicine, Philosophy and Physiology. The four bronze figures of Astronomy, Chemistry, Rhetoric, and medicine are works of Henry Hugh Armstead ; the designs are characteristic of Applied Mechanics and represent the Lever, the Wedge, and the Screw, with figures of Archimedes and Watt.

Eight more statues which represent the moral and Christian virtues are near the top of the canopy’s tower. These include the four cardinal virtues and the three theological virtues,

which are Faith, Hope, Charity and Humility, Fortitude, Prudence, Justice and Temperance. Above these at the top of the tower are angels and at the very top there is a gold cross.

As time went by the Memorial had been abandoned and towards the end of the 1990s the decay which it had suffered was more pronounced. A decision was taken for thorough restoration, cleaning, repainting and re-gilding as well as structural repairs. During the restoration the seated figure of Prince Albert, was covered in gold leaf.


figure of Prince Albert

Description of the marbles of the podium

The podium of the Albert Memorial which can be described as a cube with angels cut off consists of  sixteen upright surfaces. Eight of these are the work of Mr. Armstead and are dedicated to poetry, music and painting. The central figure is Homer enthroned holding the harp resting on his left knee. On Homer’s right is Dante who has turned and is gazing up at him; the arms are rigid and there is the stress of mental absorption which gives a rigidity and austerity to the composition. On the other side the figure of Shakespeare who is seated and reclines on Homer’s left is a contrast to the posture of the two others.

Immediately over Dante stands Virgil who is leaning on the Homeric throne and looks at Homer who is a most probably the common source of their inspiration. A little behind Virgil is Pythagoras, a prophet, or poet in the old sense. On the left hand, Chaucer rests on the throne also looking towards Homer. In front of him, Milton leans forward. This group of the poets is completed by Corneille, Moliere and Cervantes supporting Virgil on the left, and Schiller and Goethe supporting Milton on the right.


The next group are the musicians. Next to Schiller, stands Bach talking to Handel and next to them Gluck listening to them. Mozart follows and then Haydn who is sited. Mendelssohn is inclining forwards absent minded and Weber next to him as well as Haydn and Beethoven.

Then there is the group of three English composers, Gibbons in the centre, Lawes on the right and Tallis on the left.

The group of the painters occupy the east front. In the centre upon a throne we see Raffaelle who is looking at number of designs. On the left Michael Angelo leaning on the throne. Da Vinci is on the right also leaning on the throne holding his book of great thoughts near his heart. To the right of Da Vinci stands Masaccio and beside him Angelico on his knees and in the space above is the face of Ghirlandajo. Giotto, John Van Eyck, Albrecht Durer and Rubens come next. Above the sitting figure of Rubens appear Rembrandt and Holbein. (John Lucas Tupper, Henry Hugh Armstead, )

Historical Note

During the period which took its name from the long reign of Queen Victoria (1832-1901) England was the first country to become industrialized and reached a  peak in her development as a world power.  By the second half of the 19th century London has become the centre of commerce and manufacturing and has known a rapid expansion and development.  The historian David Thomson has described the developments in England and the Nineteenth Century. He says that the period “is one of strenuous activity and dynamic change, of ferment of ideas and recurrent social unrest, of great inventiveness and expansion.” (The Norton Anthology of English Literature, 3rd edition, vol.2, p. 876). Especially, during the middle years after the Time of troubles was over, it was a time of prosperity and development for England.  All the institutions worked well, there was a growing sense of satisfaction, the queen and her husband, Prince Albert, very much liked and very much devoted to duty.

In 1851 Prince Albert opened the Great Exhibition in Hyde Park which is a celebration of  the triumphs of trade and industry.  The exhibition was to house the exhibits of modern industry and science in a gigantic glass greenhouse, The Crystal Palace.  All modern architectural principles had been employed for the construction of the Crystal Palace and mainly iron and glass were used.  Both the building and the exhibits symbolize the triumph of Victorian technology.


Crystal Palace - Prince Albert opens the Great Exhibition

It is obvious therefore that the whole composition of the Prince Albert Memorial agrees with the ideas and trends of the middle of the nineteenth century as well as with the mentality of the person that was built to honor.  In any case, it is characteristic that the seated figure of the Prince holds in its right hand and rests on his knee the book of the Great Exhibition.

Bibliography – Sources Consulted

1)      Beattie, Susan. The New Sculpture. New Haven: Yale University Press, 1983.

2)      British Sculpture 1850-1914. A loan exhibition of sculpture and medals sponsored by

The Victorian Society. London: Fine Art Society, 1968.

3)      Read, Benedict. Victorian Sculpture. New Haven: Yale University Press, 1982.

4)         “Henry Hugh Armstead.” English Artists of the Present Day. Essays by J. Beavington Atkinson, Sidney Colvin, F. G. Stephens, Tom Taylor, and John L. Tupper. London: Seeley, Jackson, and Halliday, 1872, 61-66. [full text].

5)      The Norton Anthology of English Literature.  Third Edition. Vol. 2.  W.W. Norton & Company, Inc. New York, 1962.




Parthenon Marbles (Assessment 1)

September 3, 2009

The ‘Elgin Marbles’ is a popular term that refers to the collection of sculptures, inscriptions and architectural features – acquired by Lord Elgin during his time as ambassador to the Ottoman court of the Sultan in Istanbul. More specifically, and more usually, it is used to refer to those sculptures, inscriptions and architectural features that he acquired in Athens between 1801 and 1805. These objects were purchased by the British Parliament from Lord Elgin in 1816 and were presented to the British Museum.

The collection includes sculptures from the Parthenon, roughly half of what now survives: 247 feet of the original 524 feet of frieze; 15 of 92 metopes; 17 figures from the pediments, and various other pieces of architecture. It also includes objects from other buildings on the Acropolis: the Erechtheion, the Propylaia, and the Temple of Athena Nike.

Material from the Parthenon was dispersed both before and after Elgin’s time. The remainders of the surviving sculptures that are not in Athens are in museums in various locations across Europe. The British Museum also has other fragments from the Parthenon acquired from collections that have no connection with Lord Elgin.

The Parthenon was built as a temple dedicated to the goddess Athena after the great victory of the Greeks against the Persian empire in the 5th century B.C. Since the Athenians had contributed the most to this victory and were the leaders of the Confederacy of the Greek States, it was not inappropriate to use part of the money of the Alliance to rebuild the temples of the gods and to offer thanks to their protectress goddess Athena. The Parthenon was the main temple on the Acropolis of Athens made of white Pentelikon marble, 70 meters long, 31 meters wide and 15 meters tall. It consisted of 16.500 marble pieces and it was designed by Iktinos and Kallikrates whereas the sculptured decoration was made by Phidias. The temple’s great size and lavish use of white marble was intended to show off the city’s power and wealth at the height of its empire.

The sculpted decoration of the Parthenon included the exterior Doric frieze made of 92 metopes (rectangular pieces of marble with sculptured decoration on) showing scenes of the battles of the gods against the giants, the struggle of the hero Theseus, the battle of the Athenians against the Amazons and the capture of Troy. Those on the south flank of the temple showed the Lapiths in mortal combat with the Centaurs (beings with human torso and head and the rest the body of a horse). On the ionic frieze which ran around the upper part of the wall of the main room, Phidias and his pupils had immortalized the procession of the Great Panathenaea. This was the greatest festival of the Athenians, and its aim was to carry the peplos (outer dress of the goddess) woven bythe maidens of Athens, and dress the wooden statue of the goddess Athena Polias (guardian of the city). All the Athenians followed the procession, riders, charioteers, musicians and young men and women who carried objects useful for the sacrifices as well as animals that would be sacrificed to the goddess.

The east pediment of the Parthenon showed the birth of the goddess Athena from the head of her father Zeus. The myth was not often depicted in classical times, although it had been popular in the Archaic period, especially on vases, All the gods and goddesses were present seated whereas at each end were chariots; the chariot of Helios ( the rising sun) on the left, the chariot of Selene (the moon going down) on the right. The sculptures that represented the actual scene are lost. Zeus was probably shown seated, while Athena was striding away from him fully grown and armed. The west pediment showed the conflict between Athena and Poseidon on naming the city. Poseidon god of the sea hit the rock with his trident and salt water came out. Athena on the other hand hit the rock with her spear and an olive tree came out. The people preferred Athena´s gift as it was more practical and named the city Athens. At the two ends of this pediment were the lying figures of the two rivers at the confluence of which Athens is located.

Here are the pieces in the British Museum collection:


Marble metope from the Parthenon : A fight between a human and Lapith and a Centaur

Figure of Dionysos from the East Pediment of the Parthenon

Figure of Dionysos from the East Pediment of the Parthenon

Horsemen from the west frieze of the Parthenon 3

Horsemen from the west frieze of the Parthenon

88) Figures of three goddesses from the east pediment of the Parthenon

Figures of three goddesses from the east pediment of the Parthenon

7) Figure of Iris from the west pediment of the Parthenon

Figure of Iris from the west pediment of the Parthenon

9) Fragment of a marble shield

Fragment of a marble shield