The Victoria and Albert Museum exterior sculptures
The frontages of the V&A museum onto Exhibition Road and Cromwell Road incorporate 32 statues of
great British artists, architects and craftsmen, made by some of the leading sculptors of the day. As well, the
grand portico onto Cromwell Road has further statues and allegorical sculpture by some of the main so-called
New Sculptors, including much work by Alfred Drury, and representative
work by George Frampton and Edouard Lanteri.
The list below gives the names and sculptors of firstly the Exhibition Road statues (10 craft
workers), and then the Cromwell Road statues (10 painters, 6 sculptors, 6 architects), with links to
the sculptors, and to those depicted, where these are covered elsewhere on these pages.
- Exhibition Rd
- St Dunstan (craftsman), by F. Lynn Jenkins
- William Torel (worker in metal), by F. Lynn Jenkins
- William Caxton (printer), by P. R. Montford
- George Heriot (goldsmith), by P. R. Montford
- Huntingdon Shaw (smith), by Abraham Broadbent
- Thomas Tompion (clockmaker), by Abraham Broadbent
- Thomas Chippendale (furniture maker), by Albert Hodge
- Josiah Wedgwood (pottery manufacturer), Albert Hodge
- Roger Payne (bookbinder), by A. G. Walker
- William Morris (arts & crafts designer), by A. G. Walker
- Cromwell Road
- Grinling Gibbon (woodcarver, sculptor), by W. S. Frith
- John Bacon (sculptor), by W. S. Frith
- John Flaxman (sculptor), by H. Bertram Pegram
- Francis Chantrey (sculptor), by H. Bertram Pegram
- J. H. Foley (sculptor), by James Gamble
- Alfred Stevens (sculptor), by James Gamble
- William Hogarth (painter), by Reuben Sheppard
- Joshua Reynolds (painter, PRA), by Reuben Sheppard
- Thomas Gainsborough (painter), by S. N. Babb
- George Romney (painter), by S. N. Babb
- Richard Cosway (miniature painter), by Ernest Gillick
- J. W. M. Turner (painter), by Ernest Gillick
- John Constable (painter), by Vincent Hill
- G. F. Watts (painter, sculptor), by Richard Reginald Goulden
- Lord Leighton (painter, PRA), by Sidney Boyes
- J.E. Millais (painter, PRA), by H Rander (or Myrander?)
- William of Wykeham (architect), by H. Wenlock Rollins
- John Thorpe (architect), by H. Wenlock Rollins
- Inigo Jones (architect), by Oliver Wheatley
- Christopher Wren (architect), by Oliver Wheatley
- William Chamber (architect), by Gilbert Bayes
- Charles Barry (architect), by Gilbert Bayes
We can comment on the choice of the 19th Century men. Five
fit directly with the sympathies of this website - William Morris,
G. F. Watts, Leighton,
and Millais, and the sculptor Alfred Stevens.
Rossetti was not close enough to the establishment to get a place, but one might have thought
Burne-Jones would have fitted the bill. The only Victorian architect
to make it is Charles Barry, understandably given the Houses of Parliament, but again,
Gilbert Scott might have been an obvious further choice.
Each statue stands atop a pillar, in a niche which, though elbows and cloaks may protrude, serves well to preserve the detail of the relatively soft
stone. Accoutrements are relatively small - a good range of palettes, tools and scrolls in the hand, or discretely on the base. There is merit in all,
but I particularly like the Leighton, Olympian as always, the Bacon, who works on a small sculpture of a girl, the characterful Alfred Stevens in a smock with some
medallion on his chest, the lyrical Caxton, and the hard-faced Wykeham.
On to the main entrance. You really need to stand almost in the road to see this properly, and after
your visit to the V&A, cross to the other side of the road and see the full thing too. The sculptural elements
include the following:
- A figure of Prince Albert in the lunette immediately above the twin doors - this is
by Alfred Drury
- Around the lunette, 9 panels showing allegorical girls in the best taste, again by
Alfred Drury, bearing the motto of the museum.
- Two further girls to the left and right of the whole, called Inspiration and
Knowledge, also by Drury. Inspiration,
on the left, has a pensive, thinking pose, and carries a book and some sprigs of foliage, perhaps laurel.
Knowledge, on the right,
reads from an open book, and her branch, bigger now, has appropriately borne a good crop of apples.
- Above these and across the top of the entrance, in the spandrel positions, two panels, by
On the left, Truth, a lightly draped girl holding a book and admiring herself in a round
mirror held by a nude boy.
On the right, Beauty represented by a sculptor or builder, admiring a pretty nude girl
holding an architectural model of - what else - one wing of the V&A itself.
- On top of all, and directly above the Albert, is a youngish Queen Victoria, carrying a
staff, and a globe with a rising angel on it. She is
flanked by two haloed figures bearing two-handed swords - on the left, a long-haired knight in art
nouveau armour, and on the right a winged angel, in Roman costume. All this once again by
- Flanking the whole portico, niche figures of Edward VII and
Princess Alexandra, by Goscombe John.
To appreciate the remaining figure sculpture on the exterior of the building, you really need
binoculars. At the very top,
nicely silhouetted on bright days, a statue of Fame with a starburst halo, by
Edouard Lanteri, and also by him, above the pediment and below
the many-pillared tower, two further allegorical figures by the same sculptor -
Architecture, carrying the capital of an ionic pillar, and Sculpture, bearing a
mallet and a small sphinx.
So much for the exterior sculpture on the V&A, a true pantheon to prepare you for the art within...
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