An Alphabet of Allegorical Sculpture - C is for Charity

Figure of Charity, by John Thomas.

Allegorical statues of Charity are fairly frequent, typically on buildings built for charitable foundations, or as part of church monuments, perhaps with Faith and Hope.

Charity is usually a matronly rather than girlish figure, often with a hood, and usually with long robes, giving her a religious-looking or medieval look. She may have her hand clasped to her breast, or have one or both breasts exposed, as she may be feeding or preparing to feed an infant. Indeed, she may be accompanied by two or more infants and small children, who may be plump or clearly emaciated. She is likely to be holding an infant, or with one hand on a youthful head, or if she is disposing charity to an adult less common have an arm around their shoulder. In her spare hand, if any, she may be holding some offering of food, or even giving a coin.

Charity does not have to be a woman we see the occasional child figure, or pair of figures, depicting Charity children on educational buildings, and it is not unknown for Charity to be a man.

Charity by George Frampton.

The example above is typical a seated, serious woman holding two infants on her lap, cradling them with her arms, the younger, nearer one looking most pitiable, and behind, small trees laden with ripe pears, representing the bounty which she is to give. This panel is by George Frampton and dates from just before the turn of the century.

This one below left, from about the same date, again has Charity as a seated woman, this time holding an older girl, collapsed with exhaustion and hunger. The pose of the raised hand is perhaps unfortunate, as the benevolent gesture at first glance looks like the beginning of a slap. To the right are Faith, Hope and Charity on a memorial, an unusually fine group, with a rather young Charity, with a charming expression, feeding and cradling a young child.

And below is Charity as one of Redferns Virtues on the Albert Memorial, alas a rather blurry picture Charity here is a crowned queen, and as she cannot have an infant (it would not match her sister Virtues), she reminds us of it by pulling aside her robes to bare one breast. Her other hand holds some fruit, which looks somewhat like a large strawberry - remember though, that the intent is to have something which can be seen from a considerable distance and at an upward angle.

Charity as one of the Virtues.

Two examples below of Charity giving a coin. The one on the left, very medieval, is on the former Scottish Widows Fund building facing Albert Square, Manchester, and is a most excellently composed group by the sculptor Redmayne. And on the right is a panel by Flaxman, with a pair of girls on a plinth giving coins to a whole group of supplicants, including a presumably blind old man, an old widow, a thin man, and a naked child, with a whipped-looking dog in the foreground. I believe this panel to be in a church in Doncaster (here is a page on Doncaster, but not noting this particular work, which I have not found).

Panels in Manchester and, I think, Doncaster.

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