An Alphabet of Allegorical Sculpture - R is for Recreation

I know two allegorical sculptures of Recreation, both of them on town halls, thus illustrative of one of the traditional areas of responsibility of local councils in Britain in owning and maintaining public parks, and later with varying responsibilities regarding sports, theatre and so forth. The first is an excellent panel by Edwin Roscoe Mullins on the exterior of Croydon Town Hall. The panel, one of a series, has a central allegorical girl, smiling slightly, about as much as is really allowed in a sculpture and perhaps more than is appropriate were this a classical work. She is seated, holding a trailing branch bearing flowers, which she is perhaps on the point of weaving into a wreath, thus Recreation as having time to oneself in casual amusement. To left and right, more easily identified groups: a mother gazing benignly on her dancing daughters, holding their smaller sibling in her arm, with a sprig of foliage suggestive of a pastoral surrounding; and two young cricket players.

Our second example, above, is on the rear of Norwich Town Hall (see this page), a stylised group by Alfred Hardiman Recreation reduced to a minimalist representation of a mother playing ball with her infant.

This image brings us neatly on to statues emblematic of Play. The example above is an archtypical Victorian image of a mother playing with her infant, teasing him with a handkerchief or ribbon. This sort of statue shows too an ideal of contented motherhood as seen through Victorian eyes. Paintings of similar groups, with varying degrees of sentimentality, are widespread. The final example, a Girl playing Ball, is hardly allegorical, but given that she is nude, may be taken as an ideal of Play rather than intended as a work of realism.

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