The Wellington Memorial (Achilles), at Hyde Park Corner, London, by Sir Richard Westmacott RA

The Wellington Monument, the giant statue of Achilles just by Hyde Park Corner, is one of the iconic statues of London. It is the work of Sir Richard Westmacott RA, the most successful of the Westmacott dynasty, but is carefully modelled after one of the statues of the Dioscuri in Rome, with the addition of the sword and shield.

Three views of the Achilles statue.

The leaf-shaped short sword is correct for an ancient Greek, but the shield was criticized for its small size, as Achilles would have borne the shield of a hoplite, which is much larger. Having said that, a larger shield would have made the figure looked unbalanced if held aloft as here, or if held lower would have lost some of the dramatic appearance of the composition, and covered part of the body. The shield as held, though, does have one disadvantage. For here we have a colossal statue, on a tall pillar, so that we can walk all the way around it, but in practice it is only seen to advantage from a relatively small frontal vantage. For if we move too far around to the left, the head is turned away from us, and if we move too far to the right, the face is covered by the shield. The dioscuri, by comparison, are part of a larger group, with obelisk and rearing horses, so there would not have been such opportunity to go around the figure Regardless of this, on this page we show several views of the Achilles, which with its strongly defined musculature, is an outstanding example of the nude male figure.

Detail of torso and head.

One other point indicates that the Achilles is based on a stone statue: the legs have some extra support, provided by the cuirass (body armour) and cloak falling from Achilles’ left arm. But such supports are obviously not necessary in a bronze statue, unlike stone, where a massive stone body would have been rather difficult to support on the relatively widely angled legs.

We may note that this site contains a couple of pictures of the Achilles statue in the snow, near the end of this page.

Rear silhouette, showing leaf-shaped sword.

This page was originally part of a 'sculpture of the month' series, for April 2013. Although the older pages in that series have been absorbed within the site, if you would wish to follow the original monthly series, then jump to the next month (May 2013) or the previous month (March 2013). To continue, go to the bottom of each page where a paragraph like this one allows you to continue to follow the monthly links.

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South west in the park to the Diana statue // Cross road east to Hyde Park Corner // Look east, behind Apsley House, to Byron statue

London sculpture // Sculptors // Sir Richard Westmacott RA


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