An Alphabet of Allegorical Sculpture - D is for Dawn

Allegorical statue of Dawn.

A number of Victorian and Edwardian sculptors have made allegorical statues of Dawn. Dawn can be a male or female figure, with the female much preferred, and the archetypical version of Dawn above is one of many figures by J.J. Millson on the Fire Station by Manchester Station. She is drawing back her veil, emblematic of the night, and next to her is the crowing cockerel who announces the dawn. Her wide spread arms suggest stretching too, and Dawn may indeed be simply depicted as a newly awakened figure, stretching to shake off the sleep, as in the figure below left, by C. L. Hartwell, or the small child below right by E. Whitney Smith. We see that Dawn is typically unclothed, as befits the awakening figure, symbolic of purity and newness and unencumbrance with the burdens which will come as the day progresses.

Dawn as a stretching figure.

The group below left, by Bertram Mackennal, shows a different allegory of Dawn – here a male example of an awakened figure almost springing out of a collapsed figure of Night, as in the new dawn, or as titled here, Dawn of a New Age. Next, a female version on similar theme, with the nude girl standing in front of the cowled, retreating figure of Night. They stand on a globe, or planet, fittingly for Dawn, and the astronomical theme is taken further in this 1930s group showing a rather vigorous Dawn on a Saturnlike planet with a ringed moon.

Dawn arising from Night, or astride a planet.

That last figure has outstretched hair suggestive of a sunburst, and as an allegory of the Sun, hair in a corona is also used in the figure below left, by Oliver Sheppard. A nude male figure, athletic without being overly muscular, and thus suggestive of Apollo, the Sun God, strides forward bringing the new day. A rather heavily muscled Apollo figure, in his chariot of the Sun, and accompanied by Mercury, is on the façade of the former His Majesty’s Theatre (Opera House) in Manchester, made by the firm of John Tanner and Son. Its title is The Dawn of the Heroic Age. Below right is a rather poor quality picture of a statuette by the interesting but obscure sculptor L Gwendolen Williams, showing a different aspect of Dawn – walking rather than striding into the day, her hand raised as she peers out into the Dawn. Her slight, youthful figure suggests the tentative arrival of Dawn, before she has reached her full strength, as it were.

Two reclining allegorical figures of Dawn below. Below left is a relief by J. Crosland McClure, he of the Leicester War Memorial, with Apollo’s Horses on the left, and the nude figure of Dawn sweeping back her diaphanous cover of Night. The second figure below is by Stirling Lee, and shows The Dawn of Womanhood, thus a young, awkward, almost gawky figure, but again a nude girlish figure in the act of awakening, mid stretch and with one hand against her hair.

Reclining allegorical figures of Dawn.

We end with two other depictions of Dawn. The head of a sleeping infant is another way to suggest the fragility and almost vulnerability of Dawn, youthful and trusting and innocent. And the group on the right, by Richard Garbe, is called The Music of the Dawn, a dawn chorus, this time clad, in thin clothes suggestive of night shifts. Again youthfulness and purity are indicated, and the central figure is gazing slightly upwards towards the horizon and, we may imagine, the rising sun.

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See also Statues of Night

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