Queen Victoria’s Equestrian Portrait Statues
Author: Philip Ward-Jackson
Publisher: PMSA Publishing
Dimensions: 14.5 cm x 20.5 cm
Sculpture historian Philip Ward-Jackson unravels a battle royal between sculptors seeking the prestigious commission to make an equestrian portrait of the Queen.
The sculpted image of Queen Victoria, with which countless jubilee and posthumous memorials have made us familiar, is of a standing or seated figure with orb or sceptre (or both), a dignified unsmiling grandmother of Empire. Which may cause us to forget the more energetic young woman, whose habit had been to ride at the head of sometimes thirty-strong cavalcade through Windsor Park in the early years of her reign.
The image of the equestrian Victoria was to inspire a group of sculptures, not all of which have survived, but which are remarkable for being the first sculpted equestrian portraits of any contemporary woman, let alone a queen, reflecting recent advances in side-saddle design and fashions in riding costume. A pleasant enough artistic excursion it might be supposed, but one which gave rise to a true ‘battle royal’ amongst sculptors around 1850. The disputed prize was the commission for a statue commemorating the Queen’s visit to Glasgow, but, for the man who won it, Carlo Marochetti, it was to prove no more than a Pyrrhic victory.
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