Victorian Monuments

Statue of Achilles Sir Richard Westmacott Hyde Park, Londn photo by Barry Shimmon for Wikimedia Commons by  Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 2.0 license.

Statue of Achilles
Sir Richard Westmacott
Hyde Park, Londn
photo by Barry Shimmon
from  Wikimedia Commons by Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 2.0 license.

On a warm Sunday in June, a walk in Hyde Park and Kensington Gardens kindles Jenkins infatuation with Barbara Goring. “That was the last day for many months that I woke up in the morning without immediately thinking of her[BM 22/18].” By chance, he met her and Eleanor Walpole-Wilson  near the Achilles statue,  an 18 foot tall bronze that rises another 18 feet on a plinth of Dartmoor granite. It was designed by Sir Richard Westmacott and sculpted in 1822, when Victoria was three years old. It honors the Duke of Wellington; the bronze for the statue was from cannons that the Duke captured in battle.

The Albert Memorial Architect: Sir George Gilbert Scott  Designed: 1872  Completed: 1876 (unveiled by Queen Victoria)  Height: 180 Feet  photo from the Victorian Web

The Albert Memorial
Architect: Sir George Gilbert Scott
Designed: 1872
Completed: 1876 (unveiled by Queen Victoria)
Height: 180 Feet
photo from the Victorian Web

Detail from The Painters, The Frieze of Parnassus on the Albert Memorial Henry Hugh Armstead photo by George P. Landow The Victorian Web

Detail from The Painters, The Frieze of Parnassus on the Albert Memorial
Henry Hugh Armstead
photo by George P. Landow
The Victorian Web

Detail of Asia The Continents: Asia by John Henry Foley (1818-1874). Completed 1876; restored 2000. Marble. Albert Memorial photo by George P. Landow The Victorian Web

Detail of Asia
The Continents: Asia by John Henry Foley (1818-1874). Completed 1876; restored 2000. Marble. Albert Memorial
photo by George P. Landow
The Victorian Web

They walked through Hyde Park and Kensington Gardens, a little over a mile to the Albert Memorial, completed  in 1876, designed by Sir George Gilbert Scott. The monument, rising about five times higher than the top of Achilles’ head, is a compendium of Victorian sculpture. The Queen approved the artists and their designs. The walkers inspected the figures of Arts and Sciences,  169 of whom circle the memorial in the Frieze of Parnassus.  Eleanor says something about the muscular bearded manufacturer, causing Barbara to break into laughter. As they come down the steps near the group symbolizing Asia, Barbara stumbles and briefly supports herself on Jenkins’ arm, giving him a delayed emotional frisson.

The Useful Arts: Manufactures Henry Weekes Completed: 1876 (unveiled by Queen Victoria) Granite? The Albert Memorial Hyde Park, London Photograph by George P. Landow 1999 The Victorian Web

The Useful Arts: Manufactures
Henry Weekes
Completed: 1876
Granite?
The Albert Memorial
Photograph by George P. Landow 1999
The Victorian Web

Are these massive monuments mentioned just to orient us geographically? Both the Manufactures and Asia are on the southeast corner of the monument, so it is natural that the walkers should see these together.

Powell rarely misses an opportunity to let a work of art–– actual, fictional, or a composite of the two––enrich our understanding of his characters and their milieu. Here,  is he guiding us to nineteenth century associations, thoughts of Victoria and her Empire? Should we remember that the Achilles statue caused a stir as the first nude statue in London (see the cartoon from 1822 of Wilberforce using his hat to make up for a fig leaf that some thought too small.)? Should we ponder why Powell mentions the Manufacturers, rather than Commerce, Agriculture, or Engineering? Why attend to the Asian Bedouin’s “hopeless contemplation of Kensington Gardens…” while ignoring Africa, America, and Europe, even though Africa was Powell’s personal favorite (SPA….. 244)?   For now we will enjoy the  tale of young love and let others decide whether to try to read this more closely.

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