Victoria Memorial

In front of Buckingham Palace, reached by a short walk from Piccadilly across a corner of Green Park, or by walking along the Mall from Trafalgar Square.

The Victoria Memorial is an imposing, tall edifice by the sculptor Thomas Brock (1911) with a surround by the architect Aston Webb. It is 82 ft high, and has a large statue of Victoria facing eastwards, away from Buckingham Palace. On the north (Mall side) is an Angel of Justice with subsidiary figures, and on the opposite side a more peaceful group with an Angel of Truth. The Justice figure is an archetypical Brock sculpture, and is worth careful study - know this statue, and you know much of Brock. The fourth side of the monument, facing west towards Buckingham Palace, is Charity. Up above, on the pinnacle, is a gilded figure of Victory with two seated figures. The plinth, raised by four steps above the surround, has ships' prows facing the corners, suggestive of Britain ruling the seas, and maintaining the nautical accent to The Mall. The whole edifice and statues are of white marble, of which a generous 2,300 tons were used.

The whole surround has an enclosing wall, and on this are bronze groups, much inspired in pose, it seems to me, by the Dionysos from the Elgin Marbles (Parthenon, east pediment) in the British Museum. They are seriously monumental, and this can be seen by inspection from inside the enclosing wall, i.e. from behind, where the sheer sculptural massiveness can be appreciated. One can also see the names of Brock and the founders stamped on the base. Oddly, one group is stamped 1916, though the memorial is dated 1911 (?). Two sets of steps lead down to ground level, and figures with lions are on each side of each stair. The lions have slightly down-drooping backs, making an interesting comparison with Landseer's lions at Trafalgar Square. At least one pair of these groups were the gift of New Zealand.

Around the edifice, save where the steps are, is a shallow moat, and on the outside surface of the inner enclosing wall Brock put marble friezes in high relief, showing mermaids, mermen, a beaked creature like a hippogriff, and other sea creatures. At the ends by the stairs are grotesque Neptunelike bronze heads in relief on panels. Beneath the bronze groups are further panels. The friezes especially are classically composed, with some figures reversed for added interest, and are most harmonious.

How does Queen Victoria fit in with all this classicism? Brock has striven hard at achieving a unity - the Queen wears a voluminous cloak with hanging sleeves, and a scallop shape above her head reinforces the classicism and again adds a nautical flavour.

Perhaps the whole monument looks at its best at night, when there is a fine contrast between the dark bronze figures, and the brightly lit white marble centre.

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