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.

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:

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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