An Alphabet of Allegorical Sculpture - G is for Geometry

Victorian statues of Geometry are generally found together with allegorical figures of the other sciences. The typical allegorical figure of Geometry carries a pair of compasses, and a tablet on which she (or he) inscribes a circle. The panel at the top of this page, one of the sequence by the sculptor John Henning Jr, is typical of the type – in this case, the tablet is held by a nude boy, perhaps a putti, and includes a triangle as well. Geometry is very classical, and we see in the background of the panel another common accoutrement, which is the globe, as Geometry is closely linked with Navigation – if the figure is actually using the compasses on the globe, then probably she would be Navigation and not Geometry. However, Navigation often has other accoutrements, such as the sextant and the paddle (see this page for examples).

Below are two standing statues of Geometry. That on the left by J. Birnie Philip is from the Albert Memorial, and shows Geometry again with compasses in her hand, this time looking at the tablet which she holds propped against her other arm, and resting on her knee. We note that to do this, her leg is raised up on a footrest – similarly, the boy in Henning’s group above used a footstool for the same purpose. Again, our allegorical figure is rather severe, serious, and fully draped, as befits the serious subject of Geometry. A contrasting standing statue is below right, a male figure of Geometry, this time with a set square as well as the compasses, and behind him a fluted pillar and a scroll depicting some castellated tower, indicating the use of Geometry in architectural design. With his ascetic features, forked beard and hat concealing a high forehead, he appears an erudite figure, again appropriate for Geometry.

Female figure of Geometry from the Albert Memorial, and male figure.

Another example of the male figure of Geometry is below, as a statue in high relief, a heroic athlete, rather lightly dressed, carrying an oversized set square.

Finally, the seated figure below is back to the compasses, and in this case she is actually in the act of inscribing the circle on her tablet. This is one of the charming figures by Daymond and Son for the City of London School on the Victoria Embankment, London.

Geometry inscribing a circle.

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