- Albert Memorial
The Albert Memorial is situated in
Kensington Gardens, London, England, directly to the north of the Royal Albert Hall. It was commissioned by Queen Victoria in memory of her beloved husband, Prince Albert who died of typhoidin 1861.The memorial was designed by Sir George Gilbert Scottin the Gothic revivalstyle. Opened in 1872, with the statue of Albert ceremonially "seated" in 1875, the memorial consists of an ornate canopy or pavilion containing a statue of Prince Albert facing south. The memorial is 176 feet tall, took over ten years to complete, and cost £120,000.
Commissioning and design
Prince Albertdied on 14 December 1861at the age of 42, the thoughts of those in government and public life turned to the form and shape of a suitable memorial, with several possibilities, such as establishing a university or international scholarships, being mentioned. Queen Victoria, however, soon made it clear that she desired a memorial 'in the common sense of the word'. The initiative was taken by the Lord Mayor of London, William Cubitt, who, at a meeting on 14 January 1862, appointed a committee to raise funds for a design to be approved by the Queen. The control and future course of the project, though, moved away from Mansion House, and ended up being controlled by people close to the Queen, rather than the Mayor. Those who determined the overall direction from that point on were the Queen's secretary, General Charles Grey, and the keeper of the privy purse, Sir Charles Phipps. Later, following the deaths of Grey and Phipps, their roles were taken on by Sir Henry Ponsonbyand Sir Thomas Biddulph. Eventually, a four-man steering committee was established, led by Sir Charles Lock Eastlake. Eastlake had overall control for the project until his death in 1865. An initial proposal for an obeliskmemorial failed, and this was followed in May 1862 by the appointment of a seven-strong committee of architects. A range of designs were submitted and examined. Two of the designs (those by Philip Charles Hardwickand George Gilbert Scott) were passed to the Queen in February 1863 for a final decision to be made. Two months later, after lengthy deliberations and negotiations with the government over the costs of the memorial, Scott's design was formally approved in April 1863.
tatue of Albert
The central statue of Albert, by
John Henry Foley, was ceremonially "seated" in 1875, three years after the memorial opened. The statue faces to the south, towards the Royal Albert Hall. Albert is holding a catalogue of The Great Exhibition, and is robed as a Knight of the Garter.
Frieze of Parnassus
The central part of the memorial is surrounded by the elaborate sculptural "Frieze of Parnassus" (named after
Mount Parnassus, the favorite resting place for the Greek muses), which depicts 169 individual composers, architects, poets, painters, and sculptors. Musicians and poets were placed on the south side, with painters on the east side, sculptors on the west side, and architects on the north side. Henry Hugh Armsteadcarved the figures on the south and east side, the painters, musicians and poets (80 in total), and grouped them by national schools. John Birnie Philipcarved the figures on the west and north side, the sculptors and architects, and arranged them in chronological order.
At the corners of the central area, and at the corners of the outer area, there are two
allegorical sculptureprograms: four groups depicting Victorian industrial arts and sciences ( agriculture, commerce, engineeringand manufacturing), and four more groups representing Europe, Asia, Africaand The Americasat the four corners, each continent-group including several ethnographic figures and a large animal. (A camelfor Africa, a buffalo for the Americas, an elephantfor Asia and a bull for Europe.)
The mosaics for each side and beneath the canopy of the Memorial were designed by
Clayton and Belland manufactured by the firm of Salviatifrom Murano, Venice.
The memorial's canopy features several mosaics as external and internal decorative artworks. Each of the four external mosiacs show a central allegorical figure of the four arts (
poetry, painting, architectureand sculpture), supported by two historical figures either side. The historical figures are: King Davidand Homer("POESIS" - poetry), Apellesand Raphael(painting), Solomonand Ictinus(architecture), and Phidiasand Michelangelo(sculpture). Materials used in the mosaics include enamel, polished stone, agate, onyx, jasper, cornelian, crystal, marble, and granite.
Around the canopy, below its cornice, is a dedicatory legend split into four parts, one for each side. 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".
The pillars and niches of the canopy feature eight statues representing the practical arts and sciences:
Astronomy, Geology, Chemistry, Geometry(on the four pillars) and Rhetoric, Medicine, Philosophyand Physiology(in the four niches).
Near the top of the canopy's tower are eight statues of the moral and Christian virtues, including the four
cardinal virtuesand the three theological virtues. The virtues are: Faith, Hope, Charity and Humility, and Fortitude, Prudence, Justice and Temperance. Humility is considered to be annexed to the virtue of temperance. Above these, towards the top of tower, are gilded angels raising their arms heavenwards. At the very top of the tower is a gold cross.
Below the Memorial is a large
undercroft, consisting of numerous brick arches, which serves as the foundation that supports the large weight of the stone and metal used to build the monument.
The memorial was planned by a committee of architects led by Sir
George Gilbert Scott. The other architects, some of whom died during the course of the project, or were replaced, included Carlo Marochetti, Thomas Leverton Donaldson, William Tite, Sydney Smirke, James Pennethorne, Matthew Digby Wyatt, Philip C. Hardwick, William Burnand Edward Middleton Barry.
Henry Hugh Armsteadcoordinated this massive effort among many artists of the Royal Academy, including Thomas Thornycroft(carved the "Commerce" group), Patrick MacDowell(carved the "Europe" group, his last major work), John Bell (carved the "America" group), John Henry Foley(carved the "Asia" group and started the statue of Albert), William Theed(carved the "Africa" group), William Calder Marshall, James Redfern(carved the four Christian and four moral virtues including "Fortitude" [ [http://www.british-history.ac.uk/report.aspx?compid=47524 'Albert Memorial: The memorial'] , Survey of London: volume 38: South Kensington Museums Area (1975), pp. 159-176. Date accessed: 20 February 2008.] ), John Lawlor (carved the "Engineering" group) and Henry Weekes(carved the "Manufactures" group). The Scottish sculptor William Calder Marshall carved the "Agriculture" group. The figure of Albert himself, although started by Foley, was completed by Thomas Brock, in what was Brock's first major work.
Armstead created some 80 of the figure sculptures on the southern and eastern sides of the memorial's podium. The north and west sides were carved by the sculptor
John Birnie Philip. Armstead also sculpted the bronze statues representing "Astronomy", "Chemistry", "Rhetoric", and "Medicine".
Henry Weekes carved the allegorical work "Manufactures" (1864–70). Although Weekes was not on Queen Victoria's original list of sculptors, being selected to work on the project only after John Gibson declined to participate, his group occupies the preferable south side of the finished monument. A central female figure holds an
hourglass, symbolising the critical nature of time to industry, while an ironworker stands at his anvil and a potter and weaver offer their wares. [cite web |title = Stevens T. 'Weekes, Henry (1807–1877)', "Oxford Dictionary of National Biography" (2004) |url = http://www.oxforddnb.com/view/article/28969 |publisher= Oxford University Press| accessdate = 2008-03-17] [cite web |title = Sheppard FHW, ed. 'Albert Memorial: The memorial', pp. 159-176, in: "Survey of London" (Vol. 38: South Kensington Museums Area) (1975) |url = http://www.british-history.ac.uk/report.aspx?compid=47524 |publisher= English Heritage| accessdate = 2008-03-17]
By the late 1990s the Memorial had fallen into a state of some decay. A thorough restoration was carried out by
Mowlemwhich included cleaning, repainting and re-gilding the entire monument as well as carrying out structural repairs. In the process the cross on top of the monument, which had been put on sideways during an earlier restoration attempt, was returned to its correct position. Some of the restoration, including repairs to damaged friezes, were of limited success.
The centrepiece of the Memorial is a seated figure of Prince Albert. Following restoration, this is now covered in
gold leaf. For eighty years the statue had been covered in black paint. Various theories had existed that it was deliberately blackened during World War Ito prevent it becoming a target for Zeppelinbombing raids or domestic anti-German sentiment. However, English Heritage's research prior to the restoration suggests that the black coating predates 1914 and may have been a response to atmospheric pollutionthat had destroyed the original gold leaf surface.
Further restoration work, including re-pointing the steps surrounding the memorial, commenced in the summer of 2006. For the duration of that work, there is no public access within the ornate surrounding fence.
"My idea in designing the Memorial"," Gilbert Scott wrote, "was to erect a kind of
ciboriumto 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."
The Albert Memorial was not the first revivalist design for a canopied statue in a Gothic style - the
Scott Monumentin Edinburghhad been designed by George Meikle Kempover twenty years earlier.
The popularity of the Prince Consort led to several other "Albert Memorials". There is some controversy as to whether the most notable of these, the memorial in
Manchesterin Albert Square in front of the town hall, which was completed before the Kensington Gardens memorial, was influenced by the publication of Scott's design or whether the architect Thomas Worthington came to his similar canopy design independently.
*The Albert Memorial at the "
Survey of London" online:
** [http://www.british-history.ac.uk/report.asp?compid=47523 Design and commissioning]
** [http://www.british-history.ac.uk/report.asp?compid=47524 Description]
* [http://www.ianvisits.co.uk/blog/2007_02_07/under-albert/ The foundations under the memorial]
* [http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/uk/89228.stm BBC News story about the restoration]
*"Mountaineering Club Journal",
Imperial College, p41, June 1964
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