An Alphabet of Allegorical Sculpture - N is for Navigation

As a great maritime nation, statues emblematic of Navigation are fairly widespread, found in greatest number, perhaps, in the historic ports of London and Liverpool. The charming figure of Navigation above, is in Liverpool, around the side of the great range of buildings facing the Town Hall, by the sculptor F. W. Pomeroy. She holds a little telescopic navigational device, and behind her other hand are a ship’s steering wheel, and what at first glance looks like a sextant, but on closer inspection seems to be the governor from a steam engine, hence steam navigation. The example below is also from Liverpool, and is definitely holding a sextant, and has her left hand on the control for a rudder of a ship’s prow, with a figurehead in the form a young mermaid, nicely formed. Between them, these two figures show three of the commonest accoutrements of Navigation: the sextant, or other navigational device; the ship’s rudder, and the ship’s wheel. The missing one, shown below right, is the model globe, usually with lines of latitude and longitude marked on, and callipers to plot the navigational course. Again our example is from Liverpool.

Navigation, a panel in Bold Street, Liverpool.

All these statues of Navigation are female, and I think they are the norm, as with so many of our allegorical figures. Below left we see an Athena-like figure of Navigation on a frieze by the sculptor Bubb, among a group of other allegorical figures; she holds onto the prow of a ship. Bubb was fond of allegory and made other figures of Navigation, including for the portico of the Commercial Rooms in Bristol. The figure below right is a particularly good Edwardian example, with quartered globe and a star in her hair, an allusion to navigation by the constellations. A nice composition in a baroque spandrel, filling her frame Rossetti-fashion.

Male figures representing Navigation are by no means unknown, and we have two examples here. To the left is a male Navigation from the corner of a pediment, holding a shield-like rudder oar. This figure is unusual in being nude: Navigation may be entirely robed, or half robed, but is highly untypical without clothes. Our second male figure of Navigation, below right, is the sombre, heroic one on the Birmingham Hall of Memory war memorial ( see this page), one of four epic figures by Albert Toft, with wheel and a coil of string which is probably a plumb-line.

Examples of male allegorical figures of Navigation.

Below left is another female Navigation, the splendidly muscular one ascribed by some to Albert Hodge, but actually by his follower, Doman. (If you like her physique, then see the page on Warrior Women.) We see the wheel, the globe, and she leans on a book with the emblem of a sun suggesting it contains navigational charts. At her feet a variety of accoutrements associated generally with shipping, which is not uncommon in figures of Navigation. This brings us to the figure below right, an exquisite arts and crafts girl by F. Lynn Jenkins, entitled The Spirit of Steam Navigation. We have a number of examples of allegorical girls holding ships, but these are often associated with Trade and are not particularly intended to represent Navigation per se.

Navigation figures by Doman and by Lynn Jenkins.

I have to show two more examples, both architectural and both from London. Firstly we have another heroic figure, with powerful shoulders, a heavy cloak, and bearing a sextant, which is the figure of Navigation by Brock for the Admiralty, associated with the Victoria Memorial at the other end of the Mall. And secondly, a pedimental figure by Bertram Mackennal on the Whitehall side of the Treasury Building, missed by many, with callipers and globe, and book of charts. Every bit as impressive in her own way as the Brock figure.

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