Albert Memorial in the Snow, January 2013

Figures from the America and Asia groups on the Albert Memorial.

The aspect of even the most familiar sculpture is changed weirdly and beautifully by snow. This page shows some pictures of statues on the Albert Memorial, Hyde Park, taken in mid-January 2013, after London experienced a reasonable snowfall over several days, and while the snow was still fresh. As ever, click on the small pictures to see them on a larger scale. For artistic descriptions of the sculpture, see the main Albert Memorial page.

The picture above shows the Albert Memorial seen from across the road, by the Albert Hall. From this distance, we do not particularly notice the snow on the individual sculptures, but the white base and surround make the monument appear more slender, light and fragile.

Three of the Sciences, snow on bronze.

Darkened bronze statues are particularly dramatic with snow. The contrast of white on dark is somewhat reminiscent of a statue in the brightest light, reflecting from above. The Albert Memorial has allegorical statues of the eight Sciences, and three of them are shown here. The snow falls on the upper surfaces, and lingers where it is out of the wind, and so emphasises particular lines of the figure and folds of the drapery, as shown in the figure of Geology, to the left, by the sculptor Birnie Philip. The figure of Chemistry, in the centre, has her snow high up, coating her head and shoulders and chest, showing the swelling mass of the lower arm, and gilding the retort she holds. This figure is by H. H. Armstead, as is the one on the right, who is emblematic of Astronomy. I chose this picture because the snow lies mostly on her cloak so we can imagine how the figure would look were she painted, as the Ancient Greeks painted their statues.

Virtues, Albert, and Angels - the effect of snow on gilded statues.

Gilded statues are much less common than bronze in England, but the Albert Memorial has several - the immense statue of Albert himself, by John Henry Foley, eight Virtues by James Redfern, and eight figures of Angels by Birnie Philip, even higher up the monument. The effect of snow on a golden statue is to increase yet further the appearance of opulence, almost like a sugar coating on an overdecorated cake. This looks particularly the case on the Angels in the picture above right, with dollops of snow poured with abandon on the sculpture. The deeply undercut robes of the Virtues, above left, allows the snow to fill some of the deeper cuts, making us more conscious of the drapery. The whiteness of the snow reflects in the gold, giving it a paler, cooler hue, shown especially in the figure of Albert.

The Continents.

Here are pictures of the Continents, the largest groups within the Albert Memorial ensemble. These are in marble, so that the snow provides a softening of outline, an additional blanket almost at one with the statue, rather than a contrast. Against the bare trees behind, the Continents make dramatic monochromatic tableaux. The group on the left, Africa by the sculptor William Theed, has a delicate tracery of snow on the hair of the boyish figure with his hand resting on the sphinx. Next is Asia by John Henry Foley, sculptor of the figure of Albert, then the America group by John Bell, with the most splendid background, appropriate for the savage figures, and finally Europe by Patrick Macdowell.

Industries, and part of the frieze.

In the pictures above, we draw back from the individual groups to see the aspect of the Industries groups; again, snow on the marble produces a softening of outline, an accent to the groups; the frieze running underneath the Industries, somewhat sheltered, has only the lightest dusting of snow, mainly on the heads of the figures, which we hardly notice. The picture above right shows as well the Africa group against the background of the Albert Hall.

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And finally, here we have some close ups of individual personages in the Continents groupings. From this close, the snow on the marble is more distinct, and tends to make the statues look more ancient, as if coated with the detritus of aeons of neglect.

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This page was originally part of a 'sculpture of the month' series, for Jan.2013. Although the older pages in that series have been absorbed within the site, if you would wish to follow the original monthly series, then jump to the next month (Feb.2013) or the previous month (Dec.2012). To continue, go to the bottom of each page where a paragraph like this one allows you to continue to follow the monthly links.

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