An Alphabet of Allegorical Sculpture - M is for Mathematics

Allegorical statues of Mathematics are rare. There is a nice pair by Ernest Gillick, atop a City Bank, as part of a group. They are respectively Higher and Lower Mathematics Higher Mathematics is shown below. She is nude, with her sole accoutrement being some sort of calculation tables. Her one hand is cocked by her ear, as if to catch the faintest whisper of mathematical truth that can be discerned. J. Daymond produced the statue of Mathematics on the City of London School, shown above with her companion Geometry. In this case, there is not so much to choose between them Geometry is using a pair of compasses to inscribe a circle; Mathematics is using a similar device to measure a distance on a map, to compare to a distance on a globe in her other hand. Behind her is a telescope. In Cambridge, Trinity College has a standing allegorical figure of Mathematics by Cibber, whose only noteworthy accoutrement is a sectioned sphere.

Ernest Gillick's figure of Higher Mathematics.

On the basis of this small sample, there is not much we can conclude about any generic attributes of Mathematics. There are various examples of processions of figures on the theme of Sciences, but Mathematics never appears to be singled out. Searching further, British statues of famous mathematicians are largely limited to Isaac Newton, and we find him presented for his contribution to astronomy rather than mathematics more generally, so he comes with globe, telescope, and perhaps apple, but no more. This is something of a contrast to Geometry, where either the compasses or the set square are the objects of choice.

Perhaps, then, all we can say is that because Mathematics was often thought of in terms of its applications, to Geometry, Engineering, Astronomy and so on, it is these which we see as allegory, rather than Mathematics itself.

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