Survey of London: Volume 38, South Kensington Museums Area. Originally published by London County Council, London, 1975.
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The Prince's statue
In respect of the Prince's statue and the groups, where the artists were chosen by the Queen, Scott's formal powers of control were very limited, but at an early date he made measured pleas for the power of influence. (fn. 11) This was only in the spirit of Derby's committee, which in 1863, when formally recommending Scott's design, cloudily reiterated Eastlake's belief in the architect's overall control of monumental sculpture. (fn. 12) In practice the sculptors had to observe the general indications of size and treatment given in Scott's submitted design (wherein the sculpture was drawn by J. R. Clayton and G. G. Scott junior (fn. 13)). Further and more significantly, they had before them the small sketch-models made for Scott by H. H. Armstead (see below).
Scott's control was nominally least in respect of the Prince's statue. This formed no part of Kelk's contract, and was commissioned by the Queen, not the executive committee, which had no formal locus standi here, although the Queen naturally ordered the matter through its members. But it was nevertheless in respect of the statue that Scott's influence was most significantly exerted, for he was largely responsible for holding the design to a form that presented great and acknowledged difficulties to the sculptor.
The choice of sculptor was the Queen's and from the beginning there was little doubt that he would be Baron Carlo Marochetti (1805–67), the French-bred native of Turin, residing in Onslow Square. The Queen shared the Prince's high assessment of him among contemporary sculptors, and called him 'the only one in England of really transcendent genius'. This was emphatically not the view of Grey and others, but the Queen attributed their attitude to xenophobia, and after Marochetti's death declared 'he had more high feeling for Art than anyone in this Country'. (fn. 14) Her second choice would have been William Theed who seems to have been regarded as a trustworthy standby in cases of difficulty. (fn. 15) Initially, Marochetti would have produced a statue to stand before the obelisk (fn. 16) and until Scott's design determined otherwise he and the Queen wanted the statue to be equestrian. (fn. 17) In March 1864 the Queen unofficially confirmed her choice of Marochetti to execute the statue within Scott's design. (fn. 18) When Marochetti saw Armstead's model a month or two later he was unhappy that a figure seen from below should be seated, (fn. 19) but after a prolonged haggle over terms accepted the commission, by a verbal agreement with Phipps, in July 1865. (fn. 20) He first asked for £15,000 less the cost of any bronze supplied by the Queen. (fn. 21) Grey and Phipps feared an outcry among the other sculptors, (fn. 22) and beat him down to £10,000, the Queen to pay for the gilding. (Phipps commented 'What an opportunity he has lost of doing the thing handsomely by this bargaining!') (fn. 23) Even so, Grey thought that a British sculptor such as Foley or Theed would have done it much more cheaply. (fn. 24) Marochetti insisted, with some support from Eastlake, on having the statue cast himself, at his foundry in Sydney Mews, Fulham Road, (fn. 25) and estimated the quantity of metal required at 20 to 22 tons compared with Scott's (too low) estimate of under 5 tons: it was commented that he must be intending to make it 'nearly solid'. (fn. 26)
Marochetti agreed to reduce his price in consideration of any bronze supplied to him, at the rate of £87 per ton. When he learned that the Government valued it at only £70 per ton (see page 157) he asked for the deduction to be reduced correspondingly. Grey was indignant and Marochetti gave way. (fn. 27)
Marochetti was finishing his first plaster model (a little over life-size, in the robes of the Garter) in the spring of 1866. (fn. 28) In June his name as sculptor of the statue was inscribed on a commemorative document placed under the pedestal. (fn. 29) In spring 1867 he completed his full-size model. (fn. 30) Unfortunately, when Scott saw it in the studio it gave him 'a severe shock'. (fn. 31) The unfavourable impression was not lessened when the gilded plaster model was placed experimentally on Scott's pedestal in the memorial. Marochetti, who seems to have had a healthy respect for Scott's determination, (fn. 32) had evidently half-expected a critical reaction. (fn. 33) Scott was, in fact, prepared to admit that his chosen colossal scale for the statue increased the difficulty inherent in a seated figure. This he confessed was apt, when seen from below, 'to look—to use a familiar term—"all of a heap"'. (fn. 34) But he, Layard and others thought that Marochetti had failed to achieve the refined modelling and attenuated proportions without which so large a figure 'becomes offensive just as a man would if viewed through a gigantic magnifying glass'. (fn. 35)
In May the Queen said that Marochetti should make such alterations as he thought best. (fn. 36) His own solution would have been to replace a seated by an equestrian figure. (fn. 37) One of his supporters was Cole. (fn. 38) An even more influential one, possessed of the Queen's ear at Balmoral, was Landseer. A canopied horse might seem infelicitous, but Landseer cited the mounted sentries at the Horse Guards ('the most picturesque thing in London') and Van Dyke's Charles I on horseback under an archway. Grey was partly convinced and told Marochetti that this could be considered. (fn. 39) Doyne Bell, who suggested experimenting at the memorial with a wooden model having moveable limbs, was hostile to a mounted figure (partly because he thought that the Prince's head should be exactly under the centre of the canopy). So was Layard. (fn. 40)
But it was Scott's opposition which was decisive. Characteristically, this was expressed in notional as much as aesthetic terms. The memorial commemorated the Prince 'firstly in respect of his rank and station as the greatest personage in the country except the sovereign, and secondly as the great promotor of art, science and of social virtues in our country', and a 'military' statue (as he assumed an equestrian figure must be) would 'clash strangely' with its 'essential sentiment and idea'. His design 'absolutely required an enthroned effigy'. (fn. 41) The alternative of a standing figure Scott rejected as less regal and less differentiated from the figures in the sculptured groups. (fn. 42) He accepted that the size must be reduced slightly, and wanted the treatment lightened. (fn. 43) His suggestion that to counteract the effect of perspective the proportions should be falsified was, however, rejected by Layard as un-classical: 'the work of antiquity. . . must be the standard of comparison'. (fn. 44) Marochetti was told that because of Scott's opposition he must, after all, keep a seated figure. (fn. 45)
Like J. B. Philip in his work on the podium reliefs, Marochetti made nude models which he then draped. He now produced a revised figure which he wished to place on the pedestal and there drape in sackcloth. (fn. 46) When Scott disliked it he set to work once more, with Grey and Doyne Bell doubting his ability to succeed. (fn. 47) Scott suspected that he was not trying hard, in the hope of driving the authorities to accept a mounted figure. (fn. 48) By the end of 1867 he had nearly completed another nude figure when, unexpectedly, he died. (fn. 49) He had been paid £2,000.
In Scott's office Marochetti's death was regarded as the opportunity to jettison his model and to retrieve 'a false move'. (fn. 50) The Queen, however, said that Scott 'only looks at his side of the question', (fn. 51) and appointed a triumvirate to advise her whether Marochetti's model could be utilized. If it were to be, Scott wanted Armstead to have the finishing of it. (fn. 49) Layard, Charles Newton of the British Museum, and Lord Stanhope advised in March 1868 that it was not good enough. (fn. 52) The Queen was not convinced, and accompanied by Biddulph, and the three advisers, went to Onslow Square to see for herself. With an 'alas', she agreed that a new sculptor should be appointed. (fn. 53)
The Art Journal attributed Marochetti's failure to his carving the model 'at once out of a mass of plaster' by a method of Thorwaldsen's. (fn. 54) On the other hand, a letter from Marochetti's son to Biddulph mentioned that his father had shortly before his death ordered his last version (wholly modelled by him) to be cast in plaster. (fn. 55)
Scott's office was at first fearful that Baron Triqueti, or perhaps Thomas Woolner, might get the commission. (fn. 50) Grey for a while thought the Queen would turn to Theed, then working on the 'Africa' group, as 'the only one she can trust'. (fn. 56) In fact, the Queen did not want to appoint a sculptor already engaged upon the memorial. (fn. 57) But Scott thought that there was only one artist whose 'artistic force and power . . . will command approval rather than tempt criticism'—the sculptor of the 'Asia' group, J. H. Foley. (fn. 58) Layard, who shared the committee's recurrent fear of making mistakes, agreed that in view of Foley's acknowledged rank in his profession they could not 'go wrong' in choosing him, whereas in choosing any less-known man 'we might easily expose ourselves to adverse criticism'. (fn. 59) As Doyne Bell said later, 'Foley is so clever and so cautious, that we shall be ultimately safe there'. (fn. 60) In May 1868 the Queen commissioned Foley. (fn. 61)
The statue was to be in the robes of the Garter, freely interpreted. (fn. 62) In one respect Marochetti's work was retained: Foley was instructed to take the Prince's likeness from Marochetti's model. (fn. 63) Presumably he did so, as he removed the head and an arm (only) from Marochetti's studio to his own, where they were still to be found at the time of his own death in 1874. (fn. 64)
Foley after all asked for the same amount, £10,000, as Marochetti, except that he included in this the gilding (fn. 65) (which Marochetti had thought would cost the Queen £600). (fn. 66) Grey was 'a little disappointed'. (fn. 67)
Foley estimated the gun-metal he would need at twelve tons. (fn. 68)
His appointment was signalized by the renewal of an agitation for the whole conception of the central statue to be changed. The press ventilated widespread fears that a more vertical accent was needed and that the composition would be spoilt by 'a depressed seated figure'—the more so as it was wrongly thought that the figure would be in 'dingy', not gilded, bronze. (fn. 69) The chief agitator was the sculptor of the 'America' group, John Bell, a self-designated 'male Cassandra', who did not scruple to prophesy Foley's failure if his own idea was not adopted. This was the 'devout treatment', an upright kneeling figure—'Albert the Good'—in white marble, slightly gilded and coloured, on a high gilded pedestal. (The sides of the canopy would perhaps have been glazed during the winter.) (fn. 70) Possibly there was something to be said for this aesthetically. His denunciation of wholly gilding the figure itself as 'barbarism' (fn. 71) was consonant with Grey's and the Queen's own doubts. (fn. 72) Bell also argued that Scott's scheme should be made more religious. The surrounding statuary was 'poetic', therefore the Prince's statue should be so too, 'and what is the highest poetry? Religion and Piety'. (fn. 73) He pointed out that if his idea was adopted 'the Queen will show her Devotion, at the same time as she shows her attachment to her husband'. (fn. 74) The impressionable Grey was for a time converted. He sometimes entertained the idea that 'sacred music' would be performed at the memorial, (fn. 75) and thought Bell's ideas 'singularly appropriate to the Prince, who carried his religion with him into all he undertook'. (fn. 76) These arguments were not referred to Foley, but to Scott, who succeeded in withstanding them. Religious feelings, he thought, should be treated with 'greater reserve' here than in a designedly religious monument. (fn. 77) The Queen took a similar view. (fn. 78) Bell persisted, exclaiming that 'a gilt seated colossus were more than an Aesthetic and artistic error—It would be a political mistake!' (fn. 79) He relayed a more acid comment from the designer of the memorial mosaics, J. R. Clayton: 'The aspect of the Prince sitting in stately nonchalance with the Emblem of our Lord's Cruxificion over his head and such men as Homer, Shakespeare, Mich. Angelo and Dante at his feet will set forth the kindness that can be cruel in a monument'. (fn. 80) But although as late as May 1872 Bell was asking for a 'dummy' of his 'Albert the Good' to be put up in the memorial for the Crown Princess's inspection, (fn. 81) he was toying with other ideas, and all were by then impracticable in view of the fact that Foley's full-size seated figure was already in preparation.
During 1868 Foley had produced a series of sketch-models. In these he had avoided some of the dangers of foreshortening and at the same time had made the Prince's figure more animated by inclining it forward and turning it 'as if taking an earnest and active interest in that which might be supposed to be passing around him'. (fn. 82) This pleased Scott and in December Foley's sketchmodel was approved by the Queen. (fn. 83) She was, however, very annoyed that he had not reported to Biddulph detailed alterations she wanted (the chest broadened, and so on), and ordered that 'all this is to be corrected and attended to'. Some suggestions by the Crown Princess for decorative details were, however, not implemented. (fn. 84) Foley's full-size model was placed on the pedestal in July 1870 (fn. 85) and approved by the Queen, though again with detailed suggestions for improvement of the figure. (fn. 86) That autumn Foley, while working in the open on his model, contracted the sickness that ultimately killed him, (fn. 87) and it was a year later before he began the final version, after constructing a turntable on a tram-way to ease his labours at the colossal statue. (fn. 88) This was finished, with the chief assistance of Thomas (later Sir Thomas) Brock, in July 1873, (fn. 89) by which time Scott had produced revised designs for the seat. (fn. 90) Casting in bronze by the founders, Henry Prince and Company, of Southwark, (fn. 91) had made considerable progress when Foley died in August 1874.
The head and hands were already chased for gilding. (fn. 92) The last casting was done in February 1875 (fn. 93) but Henry Prince's death about then delayed the completion until October. (fn. 94) The statue was placed in the memorial in November (fn. 95) but not made visible until it had been gilded in situ. (fn. 96) It was unveiled on 9 March 1876, (fn. 97) when the gilt was so bright as to be dazzling (Plate 41b). (fn. 98) A newspaper reported that Foley had not wanted the statue gilded but the records of the committee are silent on this. (fn. 99) (Marochetti had suggested that the gilt might be relieved by silvering. (fn. 100))
The chasing was by Auguste Majeski, a Frenchman of Polish extraction, whose work Doyne Bell and Newton greatly admired. (fn. 101) It was supervised for the Queen by Armstead and for Teniswood by Henry Weekes. (fn. 102)
The podium reliefs
Below the Prince's statue, the podium reliefs were much more directly under Scott's control. Not only were they a charge on the committee but they were included in Kelk's contract like the structural parts of the memorial and were executed by artists of Scott's choosing. For this 'soul' of the design he turned in 1863–4 to two comparatively little-known men, H. H. Armstead (1828–1905) and J. B. Philip (1824–75). The latter was already working on Scott's reredos in St. George's Chapel, Windsor, but it was the former whose work was especially admired by Scott, and who sketched the reliefs on the model of 1863–4. It was presumably Armstead whom Scott had 'in my eye, while designing this part of the Memorial'. (fn. 103) The choice of him and Philip, however, owed something to Scott's wish to deflate Theed's alarming estimate of the cost of the statuary by engaging sculptors who would do the work more cheaply than men of established reputation. (fn. 104) (The combination of Armstead's and Philip's carving on a Scott building occurs also at the Foreign Office. (fn. 105))
The records indicate comparatively little discussion of the subject-matter of Scott's 'frieze' of reliefs. Its affinity to Delaroche's Hémicycle des Beaux Arts in the École des Beaux Arts was avowed by Scott himself. (fn. 106) By March 1864 Scott had decided on his artists (fn. 107) and in May was settling the arrangement, which is close to that on the model. In harmony with the Victorian ascendancy of the concept of the 'poetic' Scott placed musicians and poets on the south side. He told Grey: 'My idea ... is that it avoids selecting either of the three commonly received fine arts (I mean Painting, Sculpture and Architecture) for the foremost place—but it places Painting and Sculpture on the two flanks united in front by Poetry as their ideal bond of union and by Architecture behind as their material bond of union'. Dean Stanley wanted to give 'a religious tone' to the reliefs by making Solomon and David the central figures of the architects and musicians, but in the end they were skied to the mosaics, and the frieze remained secular. (fn. 108)
The south and east sides were given to Armstead and the north and west sides to Philip. Armstead's east side included the short outer face of the north-east corner podium, and Philip's west side the corresponding south-west face. Armstead grouped his poets and musicians (south) and his painters (east) by national schools, whereas Philip arranged his architects (north) and sculptors (west) in chronological series from the north-west corner.
Both undertook to do the work in four years for £7,781 15s. each, Kelk supplying the marble. (fn. 109) Even divided between two artists the work was of formidable magnitude—a 210-foot run of some 169 life-size figures or busts in low and high relief. Scott called it 'perhaps one of the most laborious works of sculpture ever undertaken'. (fn. 110) The difficulty was increased by the decision, for which Eastlake was responsible, that the carving should be done in situ, 'as the Metopes of the Parthenon had been', after the two-foot-thick slabs of marble had been fixed in position. (fn. 107) (fn. 1) The work had, therefore, as Scott said, to be 'hewn—or more properly excavated—out of the solid mass of the Monument'. (fn. 110) It was carried on in sky-lit studios built by Kelk against the faces of the podium, which for a time completely surrounded the memorial (Frontispiece). (fn. 111)
It was some two years from the conclusion of the contracts before the sculptors began work on the marble. (fn. 112) The assembly of material for authentic portraits or appropriate inventions was laborious. (Armstead's albums in the Royal Academy contain some of the portraits that he collected.) Doyne Bell introduced Armstead to Crabb Robinson for hints on the appearance of the latter's old friend Goethe, (fn. 113) and to Julius Benedict, who had known Weber, Mendelssohn and Beethoven. (fn. 114) For remoter times the sculptors were under instruction from the 'art' members of the committee ('Are you aware that according to a tradition preserved by Greek writers, Phidias was bald?' (fn. 115)), but representation of the recently departed also presented its problems. Doyne Bell had known the musician Sir Henry Bishop well, and confessed that 'it was very difficult to make a likeness, which should not be offensive . . .' (fn. 114)
Philip was particularly subjected to a classicist's criticism by Layard and Newton. Layard, finding Philip's heads 'poor, commonplace and without character or impression', urged the study of ancient sculpture and engraved gems and the literature of classical art and archaeology, including Visconti's Iconographie Ancienne and Eastlake's Contributions to the Literature of Art. (fn. 116) Newton was particularly offended by Philip's attempts at archaic and classical Greek figuration. (fn. 117) He and Scott were much annoyed by Philip's insouciance under criticism, and it was a pity that Philip's relief of Scott himself (the only living figure included) was executed when he was under the architect's displeasure. (fn. 118) Philip had wanted to include Scott in 1867, but the latter demurred and Philip substituted Pugin. (fn. 119) Early in 1868 the Queen overrode Scott's objection (fn. 120) and would subsequently have given his figure greater prominence if Philip had not been too far advanced in his work. (fn. 121)
The sculptors had added a technical difficulty to their problems when they increased the already pronounced depth of relief, bringing some of their work virtually into the round. The maximum of twelve inches was increased to fourteen or, at one place ('Shakespeare's knee') to sixteen inches. (fn. 123) When this was done is uncertain as it was effected without the committee's official cognizance. (fn. 124) Early in 1866 Layard and Scott had been concerned that Philip was attempting three degrees of relief contrasted with Armstead's two—in defiance, as Layard thought, of good classical precedent. Scott undertook to bring the two treatments into harmony, there being 'some little professional jealousy' between them that made mediation desirable. (fn. 125) Possibly a higher degree of relief was then agreed upon. The result was, as the sculptors complained, to introduce 'passages . . . difficult to reach with the chisel' where 'the workmen cannot give a direct blow at the work but it has to be ground down by twisted tools'. The 'campanella' marble was even harder than expected but at the same time was susceptible to fracture and 'stunning'. (fn. 126) The two sculptors had begun work at the podium face in the late summer of 1866. (fn. 127) Much of the work of modelling still remained, however, and went on concurrently with the work in marble. (Some alterations were thus made at a very late date). (fn. 3) By May 1867 they realized that they would fail to meet their contract date. (fn. 128) Being under engagement to Kelk they were perhaps more liable to goading than the other sculptors. Like them, they employed assistant 'sculptors' or 'carvers' and pointers, but Kelk thought they should employ more. Armstead particularly suffered in steadiness of nerves and hand whenever his foreman announced 'Mr. Kelk is here'. (fn. 129)
By July 1868 Armstead and Philip each became convinced, also, that he would make no profit and indeed probably lose by the work, which Armstead thought would cost him £2,000 and Philip £1,700 more than he had estimated. (fn. 130) Kelk doubted that they would lose by their contracts but agreed that they would gain no profit by the work. (fn. 131) Scott asked Kelk to speak 'a few words of encouragement and kindly sympathy'. (fn. 132) He thought they were sacrificing their lives' savings and through 1868–70 stoutly supported their pleas for aid from the committee. With 'melancholy pleasure' he testified to the labours of 'two earnest-minded and devoted artists' in circumstances that must induce a 'state of chronic depression . . . calculated to quench all artistic fire. They are standing up and manfully fighting against this to them tremendous misfortune. ' Meanwhile Armstead's reliefs especially pleased him—'the quality of art thrown into them is splendid'. (fn. 133) The committee gave each of them an additional £1000. (fn. 134)
The work was finished in the spring or summer of 1872. (fn. 135) The subjects are listed in the official history. (fn. 136) The most recently deceased was Auber (1782–1871) and the youngest was Pugin (1812–52). No British poet after Milton was included. Among architects omitted, as was noted in The Builder, (fn. 137) were Soane, Schinkel, and Perrault.
Figures that some of the committee had particularly liked were Beethoven and Purcell, and the sequence of Northern European painters, especially Dürer and Rubens (Plate 46a, 46b, 46d). (fn. 138) These were by Armstead, who seems to have been thought the superior artist by those responsible for the work. The Queen agreed, thinking his early models 'very fine and full of genius'. Philip's she had also liked, but had thought him 'not so clever a man, as this young Mr. Armstead'. (fn. 139) Among critics, however, Armstead's work was most liked by those who least liked the memorial as a whole. The Saturday Review thought him the only artist to have gained in reputation. It admired the high proportion of full-faces in his composition but found even in his work the triviality of execution that enfeebled the other sculpture—'the surface of the marble is frittered away by play of hand and flourish of chisel'. In Philip's work it found 'respectable mediocrity', and shared Layard's objection to the excessive range of the degrees of relief. (fn. 140) The Pall Mall Gazette and The Athenaeum also liked Armstead's work better than Philip's. (fn. 141) The Art Journal, however, preferred Philip's 'chaste gentleness' to Armstead's work, wherein it found 'a certain mechanical arrangement': Philip's Michelangelo (Plate 46c) was sufficient to make his reputation. (fn. 142) The Building News thought none of the work would bear close examination. (fn. 143)
When the work had been commencing Cole suggested that the reliefs should be permanently protected by glass. (fn. 144) When nearly finished Armstead suggested that in winter they should be covered with matting or wooden frames. (fn. 145) They were already stained in November 1875. (fn. 146)
The eight groups of statuary
The importance of the other works of marble statuary, the eight groups, was amply recognized. The Art Journal said in 1865 that the memorial generally required 'the grandest effort that our school of sculpture has ever been called upon to put forth' and that the four larger groups would 'afford opportunities for permanent distinction that will never occur again in our time'. (fn. 147) They were paid for by the committee but not included in Kelk's contract. The artists were chosen by the Queen.
In March 1864 (when the work was as likely to be in bronze as marble) the Queen named John Gibson, R.A. (the oldest, born 1790), William Theed, John Henry Foley, R.A., and John Bell for the larger groups, and a 'short list' of six—Matthew Noble, Lawrence Macdonald, Thomas Thornycroft, Patrick Macdowell, R.A., Joseph Durham and John Lawlor (the youngest, born 1820)—for the smaller. (fn. 119) Thornycroft was included at the special behest of the Queen because 'he is very poor, and the Prince had a high opinion of his ability', although Grey thought he had 'scarcely name enough for such a work'. (fn. 148) Gibson declined (he was unwilling to leave Rome) (fn. 149) and Macdowell was then given a large group. (fn. 150) Macdonald fell out, perhaps because Grey could not find him in the directories (fn. 151) (he, too, was living in Rome (fn. 152)). Noble and Durham had been included as sculptors of'the most popular statues of the Prince' but the Queen had 'not a very high opinion' of either (fn. 18) and they also disappeared. The gaps were filled by two Royal Academicians—William Calder Marshall and Henry Weekes. (fn. 153)
Terms were agreed in the summer and autumn. In March Scott had thought the prices (in bronze or marble) should be £4,000 each for the smaller groups and £5,500 for the larger. (fn. 154) The committee, however, decided on an offer of £800 for each human figure and £400 for the animals. They thus brought the sculptors of the smaller, all-human, groups down to £3,200 each. (fn. 155) But the sculptors of the larger groups, who haggled in unison, insisted on £1,000 for the animals, or £5,000 in all. (fn. 156) Each was to do the work in four years, like the podium sculptors, but to provide his own marble.
This was the 'campanella'. As well as its hardness, its richer shadows and less staring highlights recommended it over ordinary Carrara or statuary marble. (fn. 157) The sculptors called it 'pale grey' but it rapidly bleached. (fn. 158) (fn. 4) Like the granite, however, it was an unattractive cargo to ships' masters and the merchant (B. Fabbricotti of Carrara Wharf, Grosvenor Road, Pimlico) had difficulty maintaining the supply. (fn. 159)
The smaller groups were to represent the industrial arts, the larger groups the four quarters of the globe (with reference to the exhibition of 1851). (fn. 160) Grey, evidently speaking for the Queen, ruled that 'the precedence of the artists' rather than the subject-matter should determine the sequence of the groups. (fn. 161) The original list of ten names had shown no particular respect for the rank of Royal Academician, but there was perhaps a change of attitude (which Cole for one was urging (fn. 151)), and it was the four Academicians who were given places on the preferable south side.
Reading anti-clockwise from the south-west corner the smaller groups (Plate 45) were Agriculture (by Calder Marshall), Manufactures (Weekes), Commerce (Thornycroft) and Engineering (Lawlor). The larger (Plate 44) were Europe (Macdowell), Asia (Foley), Africa (Theed) and America (Bell).
In July 1864 the sculptors of the larger groups met and discussed their tasks with Scott. (fn. 162) The general character of the groups was decisively determined by his original design, and their dimensions were to be settled by him. (fn. 163) The composition of the larger groups from five figures and an animal was Scott's. (fn. 164) Further, the sculptors had before them Armstead's sketch-models (in existence by April 1864 (fn. 165)), to present Scott's ideas more vividly. (fn. 5) The records do not make it clear with how sincere a readiness the sculptors followed these models. In the same month of July Scott told Doyne Bell that the sculptors desired permission to take the sketch-models 'for a time as their general guides', which was granted. (fn. 166) In March 1865 The Athenaeum noted that Foley, in his model for 'Asia' (which was 'incomparably the finest' of the groups) had 'magnanimously and honourably accepted, with but slight modifications, the design of Mr. Armstead'. (fn. 167)
Scott's recorded comments are less frequent, even, than on the Prince's statue and the reliefs. The final works were generally and in differing degrees close to Armstead, but Scott regretted the introduction of allegorical dress and the increased obscurity of figures 'absolutely needing a verbal explanation'. (fn. 168) In the end, he preferred Arm-stead's sketch-models to the finished groups. (fn. 169)
According to Theed in 1871, a general modification was made in the larger groups but the date is not known. The figures were enlarged by about an eighth, the better (Theed said) to suit the size of the pedestals. This would seem to have been in accordance with what Scott himself would have preferred when the contracts were made. (fn. 170) Together with the reduction in size of the Prince's statue it would have given rather more emphasis to the outer compared with the inner sculpture and conceivably was contrived by Scott as a partial counterweight to the heightened flèche.
The eight sculptors' first sketch-models were submitted to the Queen in November 1864. (fn. 171) By a unanimous verdict Foley's was thought the finest—Eastlake called it 'glorious'. Calder Marshall's was thought the best of the smaller groups and Lawlor's the worst ('a signal failure'). (fn. 172) It was at that stage that Scott made his one comprehensive criticism of the groups. Generally, apart from his aversion to allegorical obscurity, he shared the opinions of the committee, but he had a good word for the simplicity of Lawlor's composition and pointed out that alone among the sculptors of the smaller groups he placed his main figure sufficiently far from the columns of the canopy. (fn. 173) In February—March 1865 revised sketch-models, except for the al-ready-approved 'Asia', were submitted. (fn. 174) Some alterations may be noted. Bell moved towards Scott's viewpoint and at the same time returned to Armstead's treatment by changing his two subordinate figures of Central and South America from allegorical to realistic dress. Other changes may (although there is no evidence of it) reflect the promptings of 'statesmanlike' discretion. Participation in the guidance of America's progress was relinquished by the figure of Canada and it was left wholly to the United States. In the group of Europe, the link of olive leaves between France and England was dropped, as was the gesture indicating England's reception of the Bible of the Reformation from Germany, and each of the national figures was more isolated. In 'Africa', Egypt, instead of listening to the counsels of Britain, herself instructed Nubia.
The Queen approved all the revised models except Lawlor's. (fn. 175) He came near to losing the commission altogether before he submitted a satisfactory model, at the fifth attempt, in December. (fn. 176) When his group was finished in 1870 the committee found it badly executed and the surface 'stunned and injured' by careless handling. (fn. 177) It was only with grave misgivings that they accepted it. (fn. 178) Strong doubts were also felt about Thornycroft's group which, when finished, showed 'want of flow in the composition' and 'much awkwardness and neglect in the execution of the details': also, he had become too self-confident to accept suggestions. (fn. 179)
Where the authorities thought these were necessary they made them over a wide range, general and detailed, aesthetic and substantive. Eastlake was rather diffident, but the Queen ruled that 'Sir C: is too Civil and too undecided'. (fn. 180) The 'art' members of the committee and Doyne Bell were in fact quite active in respect of the sculpture. All the studios were visited (they were all in London) and positive suggestions made. Eastlake expounded copiously to Lawlor the potentialities of his subject, Engineering, for the illustration of progress ('most prolific in incident and subject fit for representation'). (fn. 181) It may be suspected that it was by external guidance that Calder Marshall's ewes and lambs 'embodied the points of the best modern breeds'. (fn. 182) Foley's Arabian merchant reclining on a dromedary's saddle was introduced at Layard's suggestion. (fn. 183) The inclusion of Lawlor's 'navvy' was suggested, in some fullness of detail, by Doyne Bell. (fn. 184) So far as the records show, however, criticism was distributed discriminatingly. There are few critical comments on most of the groups and they were mainly concentrated on Lawlor, Thornycroft and John Bell. Doyne Bell is found appraising the heaviness of shoulder in one of Lawlor's figures and reporting small changes to Windsor (Lawlor 'has very slightly varied the position of the head', and so on). (fn. 185) The same sculptor encountered a difficulty in the way navvies tied their trousers and thought it necessary to ask permission (which seemingly may have been withheld) to terminate the figure below the knee. (fn. 186) The elimination of needless accessories was sought by the committee, and particularly from Bell's group. (fn. 187) Respect for Foley seems to have saved him from similar criticism, perhaps unfortunately. 'Vigour and character' were especially looked for, (fn. 188) but the well-meant attentiveness of the authorities was possibly inimical to their achievement.
The Queen herself felt a responsibility for the sculpture and visited all the studios. But with her two elder daughters in Germany she found it burdensome. 'It is terrible for me, who do not thoroughly understand severe and correct art, as my beloved one did, in such a wonderful degree, to have to decide on what is best without even Vicky or Alice to help me', she wrote when making repeated 'careful and very minute' examinations of the sketch-models in 1864. (fn. 189) The young Princess Louise, herself to become a sculptor, made a little sketch for alterations to Lawlor's group, which Eastlake approved. (fn. 190) Photographs of the first and second sketch-models were sent to the Crown Princess in Berlin (latterly with a broad hint from Grey that adverse criticism would now be inconvenient). (fn. 191) The Queen could, however, be decisive in her own opinions. 'I don't think much of the Beaver', she wrote of Bell's group, and the beaver vanished. (fn. 180)
The records do not tell whether such sentiments as the generally pacific tenor of the 'Europe' group, or the good-will towards the United States in 'America', were inspired from above. There was doubtless some control of the groups in respect of the 'story' they told. Foley's Turkish merchant was evidently eliminated in favour of an Arab partly because of the similar figure in Thornycroft's 'Commerce', and the lion which Theed took over from Armstead in his 'Africa' was no doubt replaced by a camel because of the lion's Britannic associations. But despite Scott's criticisms the significance of the groups (especially of the industrial arts) was not made immediately obvious. Even Theed's 'Africa' retained a European figure. Bell did his best, but President Lincoln's widow and the Unionist General Keyes were not the last visitors to mistake his Mexican for a Red Indian, 'and', as he candidly admitted, 'I don't wonder at it'. (His solution, to name all the subordinate figures on the plinths, was unpopular with his fellow-artists and rejected.) (fn. 192)
Scott had warned the committee in 1864 that the sculptors had possibly made their contracts at too low a price. (fn. 193) In March 1865 the sculptors of the larger groups asked for £500 more each, because of the unexpected hardness of the marble: (fn. 194) at a later date Bell said that it was 'like working porphyry'. (fn. 195) The committee admitted the difficulty (fn. 196) but said the sculptors must wait until the final accounting. (fn. 197) Complaints continued and in November 1868 three of the authors of 'these colossal groups of poetic sculpture' renewed their request. (Foley, who now had a direct royal commission for the Prince's statue, did not join in this plea.) They pointed to 'the magnitude and elaboration of the works': also, the marble was treacherous to work. (fn. 198) A year or two later Bell described the 'almost vitreous hardness' which 'renders it so liable to fly or "pluck out" in workmanship. . . . I have tried to keep it strong in the more delicate parts, and have had these worked tenderly, so as not to disintegrate the marble with blows'. (fn. 199) By 1869 one or two of the sculptors were reported to be 'actually at a standstill or nearly so, for want of money', a condition exacerbated, it was thought, by the contraction of patronage following the recent financial crises in the City. (fn. 200) Macdowell was lent £1,000 (fn. 201) but died in debt at the end of 1871. (fn. 202) Theed and Bell were each lent £500. (fn. 203) In 1872 Theed said that he had done his work at a loss. Bell said that he was 'very considerably poorer' for the commission, and to Newton's comment that it had at least been good advertisement replied 'sixty years of age is rather late in the day to be paid by advertisement'. His £5,000 had all been expended, without reward for his time and labour, whereas (as he explained) 'hitherto my calculation for my works of sculpture has been to receive (for myself) cent per cent on the outlay in production'. (fn. 204) The sculptors looked back wistfully to the splendid fees commanded by Chantrey, to the honour of their common calling. (fn. 205) Finally, in May 1873 Foley, Theed and Bell were given an extra £500 each, (fn. 206) bringing their remuneration to Scott's original estimate.
This final payment was delayed by Bell's own dilatoriness which retarded the casting-up of accounts. (fn. 207) It was rather a complaint against him that he refused to employ more than his normal three assistants. (fn. 208) He himself, in the last stages of the work when his group was in place and the memorial open to the public, made a virtue of the fact that 'I have myself lately worked three weeks, with my own hands, on the faces'. (fn. 209) He declined a suggestion from Doyne Bell that he should employ the Belgian sculptor, Adolphe Schoonjans, who had been engaged by both Foley and Macdowell to carve and point their groups in his own studio. (fn. 210)
One sign of Bell's care was thought to be the judicious jointing of his group, (fn. 211) an aspect of the work neglected, it was believed, by some of the sculptors (including Lawlor, Thornycroft and Macdowell). (fn. 212) Cole noted in October 1874 that the joints were already becoming marked and the marble stained. (fn. 213) Theed's jointing was considered likely to be the most weathertight. (fn. 214) Present opinion is that Foley's group is the closest jointed and is also unblemished by the pieces of marble inserted by the sculptor that are becoming displaced in Macdowell's and Bell's groups. Some jointing by Lawlor and Thornycroft's recourse to patching may also be criticized. (fn. 215)
The official history of the memorial contains the sculptors' descriptions of their works. In the group of Europe (Plate 44a) 'France, as a military power, is shown holding a sword in the one hand and in the other a wreath of laurel. Germany, the great home of literature and science, is represented in a thoughtful attitude, with an open volume on her knee. Italy is shown as awakening from a dream . . .' (fn. 216) The Art 'Journal had noted that the general sentiment of the group was one of Peace, and that the Britannia 'bespeaks peace, earnestness, and self-possession'. (fn. 147) The Times thought it 'classic and instinct with pure art... The faces are lovely', although vigour was sacrificed to refinement. (fn. 217) The Saturday Review condemned the prettiness of Macdowell's 'drawing-room' style: it was 'not monumental art'. (fn. 218)
Foley in his Asia (Plate 44b) aimed at a 'general feeling of repose'. (fn. 219) The Queen thought his and Theed's groups the best, and Foley's execution was admired (although Lady Eastlake had some reservations about his drapery (fn. 220)), but the response was less generally favourable than the committee probably anticipated. The Times thought his details 'full of incongruity and barbarity' and The Saturday Review thought that the composition had not been sufficiently studied from all points. His elephant was objected to, chiefly because it seemed to be about to rise, to the discomfiture of the figures reposing on or against it. (fn. 221) The official history tells us that 'the prostrate animal is intended to typify the subjection of brute force to human intelligence'. Sometimes the explanation of allegory is unwise, and it is damping to learn that the poetic image of Asia unveiling herself 'is an allusion to the important display of the products of Asia, which was made at the Great Exhibition of 1851'. (fn. 219) In Foley's first sketch-model (as in Armstead's) Asia was draped. It is not known when Foley substituted a partly nude figure.
Of Theed's model for the Africa group The Art Journal commented (in 1868) that he had been fortunate in that the nude would be accepted here 'not only without question, but as a propriety of the subject'. (fn. 182) Theed's negro is receiving instruction from 'European civilization', (fn. 219) not missionary Christianity—perhaps a sign of the hesitancy in religious expression that marks the monument. The Saturday Review liked the perspicuity, finish and refinement—the manifest skill that the Queen presumably admired—but deplored a lack of force (Plate 44c). (fn. 218) Lady Eastlake criticized his (and by implication Macdowell's) introduction of 'real marble things' such as a shattered Roman column. (fn. 222)
In Bell's group (Plate 44d) the expression of 'present progress and general onward movement' was contrasted with the mood of the other three groups. (fn. 223) He had brought his work closest to Armstead's and had retained some of the latter's boldness. America ('of the Indian type') was 'mounted on a bison, charging through the long prairie grass. Their advance is directed by the United States on the one side, while, on the other, Canada attends them, pressing the Rose of England to her breast. . . The features of the figure representing the United States are of the North-American Anglo-Saxon civilized type'. South America is 'equipped for the chase', while Mexico 'rises, restless and disturbed, from his panther's skin, but yet looks forward with hope . . .' (fn. 224) Bell had been at some pains to learn the sentiments of citizens of the United States, whom he found 'nervously sensitive to what they are thought of in England'. (fn. 209) The Minister here, C. F. Adams, made one or more visits, generally approved the treatment, and suggested the evergreen oak as 'the proper symbol' for the United States' wreath. (fn. 6) (fn. 225) The Daily Telegraph had said of Bell's model in 1867 that Adams's compatriots would 'see in this noble work that a real affection and admiration for the great Republic have inspired the English artist'. (fn. 226) In 1867 Doyne Bell thought that the group would be 'very interesting and popular', (fn. 227) and it was, on the whole, the most successful of the groups with the public. The Times thought it 'a really great work'. (fn. 217) But The Pall Mall Gazette, reviewing an early model, had failed to find 'the quality of noble statuary'. (fn. 228) It was generally admitted that the execution fell short of the conception (and that was in great measure Arm-stead's).
The reception of the statuary as a whole was very varied. The Art Journal was, possibly under 'inspiration', eulogistic, (fn. 229) and the daily press was favourable. The Pall Mall Gazette, although magisterially condemnatory of the memorial as a whole, found much 'of the very highest interest' in the sculpture. (fn. 230) The Athenaeum thought the larger groups a waste of time and money. (fn. 231) Sidney Colvin in The Saturday Review felt the lack of 'force and decision' intensely. 'The romantic classicism which is the bane of modern sculpture is the style here triumphant, a style fatal to original thought or manly execution'. (fn. 218)
Lady Eastlake made a criticism of the smaller groups, that they 'form the wrong angle, lying from and not to the monument'. (fn. 232) There was, however, little comment on the stylistic contrast between the sculpture and the structure. The designer of the mosaics, Clayton, had had to acknowledge this contrast in developing his forms, which he deliberately adjusted away from 'the style of the architecture' the better to harmonize with the work of the sculptors who 'are perhaps necessarily avoiding all Gothicism of character'. (fn. 233) In 1863 The Builder had in fact come out emphatically against self-conscious Gothicism in the sculpture. 'This will be the life or death of the monument. We must have no working down to Mediaeval quaintness but a working up to the highest style of art superfused with sentiment. We must have no wilful distortion or studied incompleteness, but the best possible art that the century is capable of'. (fn. 234) The three 'art' members of the committee were themselves all profoundly respectful, of course, of the statuary of classical antiquity. When the memorial was completed Scott accused himself of failing in courage to exert sufficient influence over the sculptors. (fn. 235) In 1864 he himself, however, had sent Grey an extract from a lecture in which he had pointed to the 'remarkable consanguinity' between some stages of Greek and mediaeval art. He called on sculptors to imbue their work with this common element, 'more Greek than Mediaeval, yet joining to the glorious perfection of the one the warmth of feeling which characterizes the other'. (fn. 236) Probably the 'romantic classicism' of the groups was, therefore, near enough to what he had in mind.
The other art-work
Scott exercised close supervision over the other 'art-work', that in the structure of the memorial itself, 'the artists who execute which may be viewed almost as the hand of the architect'. (fn. 237) These artists, responsible for the metal statuary in the flèche, for the metalwork itself, for the architectural stone-carving and for the mosaics, were of Scott's choosing. (fn. 238)
The eight statues representing the practical arts and sciences on the pillars and in the niches of the canopy were by Armstead (on the eastern side) and Philip (on the western). (fn. 239) Originally intended to be of marble, they were cast in bronze by Messrs. Elkington of Birmingham and Henry Prince and Company of Southwark respectively. (fn. 240) Patination rapidly concealed the fact that the founders had used different bronzes. (fn. 241) Scott preferred Elkington's work, (fn. 242) and Newton commented that he had never seen such line discrimination between flesh and drapery in a bronze as in their work for Armstead. (fn. 242) Armstead's own modelling of his Chemistry, on the north-east pillar, was particularly liked by The Pall Mall Gazette ('simple and vigorous-looking. . . a frank hardihood and a scorn of prettiness'). (fn. 228)
In the aedicular stage of the flèche the four 'Christian' and four 'moral' virtues were modelled by James Redfern (1838–76), the youngest of the art-workers. He was selected by Scott in 1867. (fn. 243) After Redfern's death Scott said 'the models were much superior to the execution in metal'. (fn. 244) In the upper stages are two tiers of angels agitating the silhouette in 'attitudes suggestive of the resignation of worldly honours . . . [and] aspiration after heavenly glory'. (fn. 245) These, like Redfern's figures, were made by the manufacturer of the flèche itself, F. A. Skidmore of Coventry, (fn. 246) and initially had been designed by an artist of Skidmore's choosing, but Scott disapproved of the work and had it transferred to Philip. (fn. 247) They are variously stated in the official history to be of copper or bronze, and were wholly gilded. (fn. 248)
Skidmore's very striking metalwork (Plate 43a, 43b) was much boasted of by Scott, it being there, as he said, 'that I have been enabled to realize most exactly the ideal I had in view'. (fn. 249) With copper and lead-covered iron Skidmore reproduced 'in noble workmanship, and to a noble scale, the repoussée-work, the chased and beaten foliage, the filagree, the gem-settings, and the matrices for enamels' of the mediaeval 'gold- and silversmiths. 'No nobler work in metal for architectural purposes has, so far as I know, been produced in our own, or, probably—considering its scale and extent—in any other age; nor do I think that any man living but Mr. Skidmore could have produced such a work.' (fn. 250) Scott had called in Skidmore and his 'Art Manufactures and Constructive Iron Company' at a very early stage, (fn. 251) and remained loyal to him in the later stages when he got into difficulties with the heavy gilding, was removed from the firm at Coventry, and fell into disfavour with Kelk, whose early opinion of him as 'very clever but very wild' (fn. 252) had not been mended by experience. (fn. 253) Skidmore's work included the inlaying with vitreous enamel, spar, agates and onyxes. (fn. 250) Altogether, Scott thought it 'perhaps the most remarkable work of the age'. (fn. 254) Scott's belief in Skidmore was not, however, supported by his enamelwork in the shields on the pedestal, which had to be re-done by him under the reproach of 'dilatoriness and want of faith' from the committee in 1873. (fn. 255)
For the architectural stonecarving (Plate 43d; fig. 27) Scott chose 'the best carver I have met with and the one who best understands my views'. (fn. 237) This was William Brindley of the firm of Farmer and Brindley, 'a man whose whole soul is absorbed in and devoted to his art'. His work, executed under Scott's 'very careful and anxious personal guidance' included the cornices of the canopy carved 'with noble foliage in high and bold relief', and the gargoyles, designed by Scott 'with that grim and grotesque but artistic pleasantry which seems to suit their somewhat quaint employment'. (fn. 256) Most of this was at first solidly gilded. (fn. 257)
The tympana and spandrels of the canopy are decorated in glass mosaic, representing on each face the art of which historical practitioners are carved in portrait-reliefs on the podium below (Plate 42a, b). Each tympanum bears an allegorical figure of an art supported by two historical exponents—reading anti-clockwise from the south, King David and Homer, Apelles and Raphael, Solomon and Ictinus, and Phidias and Michelangelo. (fn. 258) In the spandrels are ideal figures of art-workers. The mosaics were executed at Venice by A. Salviati, who was engaged in the summer of 1865. (fn. 259) The designer, chosen by Scott, was J. R. Clayton of Messrs. Clayton and Bell. (fn. 260) When the full-size cartoons were about to be prepared Scott suggested that Clayton should go to Florence to renew his acquaintance with fourteenth-century work. (fn. 261) On seeing one of the cartoons tried in situ in the summer of 1867 Scott was dissatisfied with the colouring—'it is very gay, pronounced and prominent, whereas I think it should have a quiet, rich and sombre tone rather like an old painting'. (fn. 262) It was toned down and Layard called the work 'rich and harmonious' in The Builder at the end of 1868. (fn. 263) That journal took Clayton's work very seriously, its comments on the Greek and mediaeval elements in his style resembling Scott's words about sculpture. (fn. 264) In the official history Scott credited Clayton with a perfect knowledge 'of that firm and severe manner of drawing which is suited to the harmonizing of historic art with architectural composition'. (fn. 265) But the lack of his usual comprehensiveness in praise suggests that he may still have had reservations about the colouring. Clayton was in any event unpopular with the authorities, who thought him untrustworthy. (fn. 266)
Mosaic was also used for the dedicatory legend extending round the canopy below the cornice. In July 1869 it was decided that it should be a bald statement of the dates and places of the Prince's birth and death, on the grounds that then 'no criticism is possible'. (fn. 267) Scott had taken a lively interest in the question, suggesting a use of the word 'talents' in a 'mystical' or Scriptural sense, and contributing as much biblical chapter and verse as Dean Stanley or the Reverend Mr. Duckworth. (fn. 268) He succeeded in re-opening the question, and the final form was approved by the Queen later that month. It 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 last eight words being Scott's own suggestion. (fn. 269) He designed the lettering deliberately to compel attentiveness in reading it: (fn. 270) in 1867 he had assumed that the legend would be in Latin. (fn. 271) In 1871 Clayton, who was evidently responsible for the setting-out, expressed dissatisfaction with the lettering and spacing, but the committee refused to let him do it again. (fn. 272)
Scott also designed the descriptive lettering on the pedestals. His last work on the memorial, in 1875–6, was designing the name Albert for the plinth of the Prince's statue. (fn. 273)
An ancillary work of Scott's was the design of the iron railing that surrounds the pyramidal steps of the memorial (fig. 28). Its erection, and that of the bronze rail protecting the podium reliefs, was determined upon only in 1870, (fn. 274) evidently as something of an afterthought by the committee. Ayrton at the Office of Works did not much like the possible exclusion of the public. (fn. 275) Scott had difficulty in siting the iron railings. (fn. 276) He was insistent early in 1871 that Skidmore himself rather than his former firm should do the work, as he had taken the best men from the works at Coventry with him to Meriden and 'his name will in future times stamp it with a value of its own'. (fn. 277) Skidmore had trouble with Kelk once more, and with the gilding, and in 1872 Scott was telling the committee that Skid-more claimed to have lost £700 over the job, by 'the sudden rise in the price of iron'. (fn. 278) (fn. 7) Scott also supplied the Office of Works with a design for railings to be provided below the flight of steps (being made in 1871 by Smith and Taylor) south of the Carriage Road, but they were never erected. (fn. 279) (fn. 8)
The memorial and its setting
These railings were left unexecuted because they were intended to open directly on a Kensington Road straightened and diverted to bring it nearer the memorial, and this alteration was itself never made. It had been strongly recommended by Lord Derby's committee in 1862, and in the summer and autumn of 1868 the Conservative First Commissioner of Works altered the line of the Carriage Road to conform to the intended new line. (fn. 280) Late in 1869 A. S. Ayrton became the Liberal First Commissioner of Works. His previous ill-will towards 'South Kensington' and expenditure on the memorial caused great fears among the committee that he would neglect its surroundings. The Queen herself wrote to Gladstone to signify her concern. (fn. 281) So far as Ayrton's intentions went, these fears were excessive, (fn. 282) and in May 1870 he introduced the requisite Kensington Road Improvement Bill. But his peculiar power of arousing hostility, together with the widespread suspicion of the sponsors of the Albert Hall, who would have benefited from the Bill, strengthened the opposition sufficiently to secure its rejection. (fn. 283) In the following year Ayrton had not wholly abandoned the project, (fn. 284) but it was never taken up again. The comparatively simple setting of the memorial, together with the hall's convexity, perhaps makes this less important than it seemed when the memorial was being envisaged as the northern landmark of an ornamental cultural precinct stretching to Cromwell Road.
By 1870–1 a considerable body of opinion desired, rather, that the memorial should be visually dissociated from the hall. (fn. 285) For a while, until c. 1865, a façade in front of the hall designed by Gilbert Scott was in prospect. But as built, the hall represented the views of Cole's Science and Art Department, and contrasted so strongly with the memorial that Gilbert Scott and others wanted a partial screen of trees between the two. (fn. 286) Another idea, vigorously pushed by John Bell, was to alter the sequence of the sculptured groups and turn the Prince's statue and the cross so that the memorial would 'face' eastward. (fn. 287)
It may be noted at this point that when the cross, which had been struck off in 1940 (perhaps by an unexploded shell), was replaced by the Ministry of Works in 1954–5 it was not only lowered slightly but given an east—west orientation (Plate 47b). This is in fact the orientation shown in the only two relevant drawings in the Public Record Office, both of which were reproduced in the official history of 1873 (Plate 41a). (fn. 288) But neither of them is a contract drawing, and although they are signed by Scott it is difficult to determine their significance. The memorial was certainly erected with the cross facing south (Plates 41b, 50a), and this is how it is shown in the principal illustration in the official history. (fn. 289) Nothing in the voluminous records, except the two drawings, suggests that the other orientation was ever seriously considered by the architect.
The laying-out undertaken by the Office of Works was not elaborate. The boundary of Kensington Gardens was moved eastward as far as the road from Alexandra Gate to the Serpentine, to include the area around the memorial. The Coalbrookdale Gates were re-sited on this eastern boundary, across the Carriage Road. (fn. 290) Avenues were laid out to east and west of the memorial. (fn. 291) Unfortunately, when the southern part of Lancaster Walk was diverted to form the avenue leading to the north side of the memorial its alignment gave visitors approaching from that side the erroneous impression that the memorial and the hall had been carelessly sited in relation to one another. (fn. 292)
Preservation and upkeep
At the end of 1872 the memorial was handed over to the custody of the Office of Works. (fn. 293) In March 1868 the committee had resolved to deposit all the plans, designs and working drawings in a national museum. (fn. 294) It seems, however, that only the working drawings were handed over, to the Office of Works instead, in 1873. (fn. 295) (One item in the series is in the possession of the Royal Institute of British Architects. (fn. 296)) In the same year the photographer, Francis Bedford, was told to erase the plates he had made of the memorial during construction. (fn. 297)
Doyne Bell had in 1867 hoped to hand over also an exhaustive memorandum on its preservation, (fn. 298) and the committee had carefully investigated methods, particularly in respect of the bronze statuary. (fn. 299) Research under Doctor John Percy had begun at the Royal School of Mines, (fn. 300) and in 1873, with the Office of Works' cognizance, his 'solution of amber' was applied to the bronze statues at the corners of the canopy. (fn. 301) It was unsuccessful, and they continued to deteriorate and stain the marble groups below. (fn. 302) Time has in fact shown that these inner marble groups are more susceptible to harm from rainwater, chemicals, and grit and other debris than the outer groups. Generally, the confidence in Kelk's workmanship, and in the high quality of the bronze used, has proved justified. The only serious unforeseen difficulty has been rust on Scott's cruciform iron girder. (fn. 303)
A radical means of preservation was long canvassed by Cole. This was to enclose the memorial bodily within a glass conservatory or 'winter garden'. Cole, who was never likely to forget entirely the Crystal Palace, had the idea in mind in 1863, (fn. 304) associated with that of a bridge over the Kensington Road. Emotionally and visually the two together would have bound the memorial more closely to the 1851 Exhibition Commissioners' estate south of the road, particularly when the most prominent features of that estate were the Horticultural Society's garden and its great conservatory. In 1866–7 Cole was trying to work something out with Kelk, and believed that Grey countenanced the idea, if hesitatingly. (fn. 305) The idea faded out, although Cole was still hopeful in 1874. (fn. 306) A commercial revival of the idea in 1876 by a Brompton gardener, John Wills, received some publicity. A huge Gothick glass-house, 340 feet high, designed by Alfred Bedborough, architect of the Westminster Aquarium, would have enclosed not only the memorial but four gardens representing the horticulture of the four quarters of the globe. Wills kept the idea going until 1884. (fn. 307)
The conclusion of the work and its cost
Doubts about the durability of parts of the memorial formed the only real check on the satisfaction felt by the authorities as the big, complicated, hand-made object was brought to completion. The sumptuous account published for the committee in 1873 testified to their pride in the work. (fn. 9) The ambitious task of bringing many talents into co-operation had been largely completed, and, since Marochetti's death, without, so far as can be judged, serious injury to any artist's sensibilities. Some credit for this is due to what Doyne Bell called Scott's 'sensitive good nature'. Himself vain and touchy under criticism, Scott seems nevertheless to have been loyally sympathetic to his fellow-artists. As for his own original conception, he acknowledged that it had been realized with substantial fidelity. (fn. 308) And the memorial's finances had been kept under control. The final balance sheet of the committee was as follows: (fn. 309)
|Society of Arts||14,188||8||10|
|Interest on investment||22,520||0||3|
Despite the generally very satisfactory character of the accounts one of the trustees, Lord Torrington, recommended that they should be 'kept dark'. (fn. 310) Doubtless he judged that the disgruntled sculptors and other art-workers would have agitated for further additional payments to be made to them. At one time, in 1868–9, it had been widely supposed that the Queen would personally pay a large part of the total cost of the memorial. (fn. 311) There seems to have been no good reason for this, but there is some grounds for thinking that at one time the Queen was proposing to bear all the expense of the Prince's statue, which in 1864 Phipps was thinking would cost her £15,000. (fn. 312) In fact, of the total cost of some £10,956 (£2,000 to Marochetti and £8,956 to Foley) the Queen presumably paid something under £5,400. (fn. 10)
When the memorial was inaugurated in the summer of 1872 Scott was knighted. Kelk, however, did not want a knighthood. He said he had already refused one ten years before, and again declined when he was grudgingly offered one by Gladstone, of whom he was a staunch opponent as a Conservative Member of Parliament. Kelk wanted a baronetcy. Like his friend Cole, he benefited from the advent of Disraeli, who gave him what he desired in 1874. Kelk's greatest disappointment at the inauguration, however, was that the Queen did not speak but only bowed to him. He sent an aggrieved letter to Biddulph, rehearsing his services to the Prince's projects in South Kensington since 1852. (fn. 313)
The Queen had been in no way disappointed with the memorial, which she called 'really magnificent'. (fn. 314) Her visits to it had sometimes been painful: 'All the time I felt a longing to tell my dearest Albert all about it and to hear his words and remarks!' she wrote in 1866, (fn. 315) and occasionally persuasion by Grey was needed to bring her from Windsor. ('London is perfectly quiet', he wrote in November 1867, 'and as far as General Grey can judge, there is nothing likely to disturb it'. (fn. 316)) But in relation to her usual retirement the Queen's interest had been comparatively active.
The public, the critics and the memorial
Confronted at its unveiling with the eerie but stolid incongruities of the memorial the public seems to have thought praise more appropriate than blame. Great crowds thronged about it, (fn. 317) and most newspapers were respectfully eulogistic. The Times, indeed, had on reflection one criticism. It complained, rather obscurely, that the memorial insufficiently expressed the real motive for commemorating the Prince, which was not that he fostered science or art but that he gave 'so princely an example of purity of life'. (fn. 318) A contemporary, on the other hand, noticed an 'extraordinary change' in sentiment since his death, unsympathetic to the memory of 'the cultured, well-meaning Prince'. (fn. 231) But The Times's protest may have voiced an indistinct sense of emotional hesitancy in the memorial where 'Religion and Virtue' were exiled above roof-level. (fn. 245) On the whole, however, The Times declared itself strongly on the side of the many who admired rather than the few who criticized the memorial. (fn. 319) The Builder considered that 'the finest modern work of its kind has been produced in this country'. (fn. 320) The plain man liked its solidity: 'The polished granite flashes back the sunlight like a mirror, and the huge blocks and shafts rest in their places without a splinter or a crack', The Standard had written. (fn. 321) Misgivings about the variegated materials were checked by the Victorian counter-argument that their use was laudably 'experimental'.
Doubts were still expressed about the gilding. Newton himself was disconcerted by the brilliance, which, however, rapidly faded. (fn. 322) (The gilding was removed from the Prince's statue and from much of the flèche by (Sir) Frank Baines in 1914–15, chiefly from aesthetic motives. It was thought in the Office of Works that the memorial had 'gained a thousand per cent in appearance', but by 1939 regilding was under consideration. (fn. 323))
Those who were critical at the inauguration found much to object to. Viollet-le-Duc condemned a lack of unity and discordance of style. (fn. 324) The Building News also criticized the memorial's disunity, especially in the combination of flèche and canopy. The colouring was top-heavy, the arch-construction false, the height of the flèche lost in the gabled roof, the flèche itself badly composed, and the whole silhouette of the memorial ugly. (fn. 325) (It has not been improved by the omission of a slender column beneath the orb and reoriented cross in 1954–5, compare Frontis-piece and Plate 47b.) The Athenaeum in 1870 had also thought the flèche better omitted, the corner pinnacles of the canopy 'very ill-designed, disproportioned and badly placed' and the finials on the pediments 'hideous'. (fn. 326) A severe anonymous critic in The Pall Mall Gazette—in fact, Sidney Colvin (fn. 327)—added that the podium was a weak accent, and revived the old objection that the piers of the canopy looked inadequate. (fn. 230) The Building News and The Pall Mall Gazette both thought the steps too massive. James Fergusson made the impracticable but pertinent suggestion that the upper octagonal pyramid of steps should be removed entirely. A 'boldly-designed granite sub-basement' should be constructed below the carved frieze which would then be viewed in accordance with precedent from a lower level. The Builder gave the idea some support. (fn. 328)
Scott had in the previous year, 1871, been obliged to endure one of John Bell's campaigns, this time for the construction of an additional central pier to support the canopy, with niches for statues of the Prince. Scott associated it with a 'wicked statement' that the structure was unstable, and evidently suspected Cole of having some hand in the matter. (fn. 329) He was therefore especially sensitive to Colvin's criticism of his canopy-design ('.. . groundless . . . untrue . . . stupid . . . malicious . . .'), and, after failing to prod Newton to his defence, obtained an enthusiastic and quotable letter from Layard, which duly attributed criticism to 'one prejudiced and unfriendly man'. (fn. 330)
The criticisms of The Pall Mall Gazette and The Building News went deeper, however, than particular and perhaps factitious objections. The latter wryly accepted the memorial as 'quite worthy of the age, and, indeed, an excellent embodiment of its specialities', while The Pall Mall Gazette vehemently expressed a rejection of much that was coming to seem repellent in High Victorianism. For want of 'artistic instinct' the designer had fallen back on 'unintelligent, mechanical and material' modes of enrichment whereby the ornamentation 'loses all character of human accent, scheme or meaning'. In the absence of a 'controlling idea' the 'profusion of appliances' was futile. 'It is organic nullity disguised beneath superficial exuberance'.
By 1873 The Athenaeum's criticisms had hardened into revulsion. In that year a review of photographs of the memorial appeared immediately adjacent to a favourable review of impressionistic etchings of landscape by J. P. Heseltine, soon afterwards the occupant and sponsor of an 'advanced' house in Queen's Gate. The memorial's highly finished anecdotal images fared less well. 'The thing, as a memorial of the Prince, is at once preposterous and false. The disgust of educated men has long ago given place to a feeling of cold contempt. The monument, as it is, represents, not unfairly, the hopes and aspirations excited by the Exhibition of 1851. Call the structure the Cross of Lost Hopes, or the Optimist's Memorial, and we shall in some degree comprehend the intentions of the sculptors . . .' (fn. 331)
The aesthetic condemnation of the memorial may be accepted, but in one aspect it is permissible to view the work more charitably. In his revision of Fergusson's History of the Modern Styles of Architecture in 1891 Professor Robert Kerr eulogized the memorial. (fn. 332) 'The simple magnificence of its design, and the extraordinary splendour of its adornment, confer upon the Albert Memorial the very highest distinction amongst modern works of art.' But beyond this, Kerr went on to compare Scott's architectural co-ordination of his fellow-workers favourably with the collaboration of engineers and subordinate decorative artists that produced the neighbouring buildings under Cole's influence. Kerr had a professional animus against Cole's disregard of the trained architect, and the results of Cole's system have great interest and individuality. Yet it remains that the co-operation between independent artists within an architect's embracing design attempted at the memorial was an ambitious essay in the ancient tradition of the mother of the arts, and if only as such is worthy of respect.