The Queen Victoria Monument in Derby square, Liverpool, feels a bit out of the way and neglected, but here we have an important monument of turn of the century sculpture (it was unveiled in 1906), and indeed, in a hierarchy of commemorative monuments in Britain, ranks high. The central figure of Queen Victoria stands beneath a dome, surrounded by four groups of clustered pillars, each bearing at the top an allegorical group, with a summit figure of Victory. The whole stands raised on a series of steps, and at the bottom of these are raised four pedestals, each bearing a larger group. Heavy double handled pots and plaques complete the ensemble, which to the top of the summit figure rises some 18ft. The architecture is white fossiliferous limestone, the figures, groups, pots and plaques are a satisfying contrast in blackened bronze.
The sculptor was C. J. Allen, an important and prolific artist with a fondness for allegory and imaginary subjects, and he has made full use of the different elements of the monument to follow his natural inclinations.
The figure of the Queen is unsentimental, indeed unflattering, but does have something of a presence. The artist is at pains with the ornamentation on her richly pattered dress, her hanging sleeves and her heavy cloak.
The pedestal groups comprise Agriculture, Commerce, Industry and Education. All are excellent. It is easy to overlook the easy superposition of modern Victorian garbe with classical, and the compositions are full of pleasing swirls and lines that bind the groups together, as shown here in the Agriculture group (a comparison can be made with other allegorical figures of Agriculture on this page).
The smaller allegorical groups atop the pillars consist of tall, heavily draped female figures with small nude infants. The cowled figure of Justice is perhaps the most menacing, grim Justice I have seen. In contrast is the charming figure representing Medicine and the Sciences, a subtle, beautiful maiden who is unfortunately too high to appreciate fully without binoculars. A picture of the Knowledge figure, and others of the same subject, is on this page.
Finally the summit figure of Fame. She is lightly draped in Hellenistic fashion to show the figure, but there is nothing Greek about her soft arms and 1900s face. An excellent thing in all regards.
Altogether then, an exquisite monument, and it is a shame that it is not made more of – the contrast with the national Victoria Monument in front of Buckingham Palace is instructional. Definitely all those who come to Liverpool should make sure to see this work.
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Sculpture pages // C. J. Allen // Also in Liverpool - Nelson Monument
Manchester's Queen Victoria memorial
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