3rd Dimension reveals a bold project to totally alter an iconic view of the Houses of Parliament.
At present the site in question, Old Palace Yard outside the House of Lords, is dominated by Victorian sculptor, Baron Carlo Marochetti’s equestrian monument of Richard the Lionheart (1157-1199), which was erected in 1860 (fig.1), but it is planned to introduce another complementary equestrian monument of the Black Prince there as a pendant to it. Modelled by Marochetti, the full-size monument of the Black Prince was never executed, but towards the end of his career, the sculptor was promoting plans to have the two equestrian monuments displayed together in Old Palace Yard.
Carlo Marochetti (1805-1867) was a favourite sculptor of Prince Albert, who lent his support to the project and used his influence as Chairman of the Fine Arts Commission to see sculpture play its part in Charles Barry’s new designs for the Palace of Westminster after its destruction by fire in 1834. With the Prince’s death in 1861, however, the scheme to have an equestrian monument of the Black Prince join that of Richard the Lionheart came to an abrupt halt.
The historical figure of Richard the Lionheart is known to many, but the Black Prince who features in Shakespeare’s Richard II and Henry V, is a rather more obscure character. The eldest son of Edward III, the Black Prince, Edward Prince of Wales (1330-1376) never became king, but was a medieval military hero. He led successful campaigns in France and is renowned for his victories at Crécy at the age of sixteen and the battle of Poitiers in 1356 which consolidated his reputation. His title, the Black Prince, may derive from the black armour he wore or perhaps from his reputation for brutality towards the French. There are few portraits of the Black Prince, but there is a fine historicizing equestrian monument to him by Thomas Brock in the City Square Leeds. The Black Prince was also one of a number of equestrian subjects proposed for Blackfriars Bridge in 1885, for further details see Dr. Philip Ward-Jackson’s Public Sculpture of the City of London in the Public Sculpture of Britain series. (pmsa publications).
To find out more, 3rd Dimension went to the Houses of Parliament to talk to the Rt. Hon. Hugo Swire, MP for East Devon, the man who is the inspiration behind the new monument, about this and his other sculptural projects. Swire was Shadow Minister for the Arts 2004 and 2005 and then Shadow Secretary of State of Culture, Media and Sport between 2005 and 2007. He was also Chairman of the Speaker’s Advisory Committee on Works of Art between 2005 and 2010.
We understand that you are particularly interested in public sculpture and have had an intriguing idea for a new public sculpture at the Houses of Parliament which you are very excited about?
Yes, I am interested in public sculpture. I have been involved in various campaigns for public monuments, such as getting a statue of Sir Walter Raleigh for his birth-place at East Budleigh in my constituency (fig.2). I had my eye on the one in Whitehall by William McMillan. It was not a very high statue and always looked rather incongruous there, because it was dwarfed by the taller monuments. I wanted to transfer it to East Budleigh, but before I was able to arrange it, the monument was whisked away and now stands in Greenwich outside the Royal Naval College.
Having been thwarted over this, I decided to get my own statue of Walter Raleigh. It was just at the time Blair had stopped tobacco sponsorship in the UK and I happened to run into Kenneth Clark, who was then Deputy Chairman of British American Tobacco, puffing on a cheroot in the then smoke filled lobbies. So I said to him your marketing budget must be awash, would British American Tobacco like to give me some money to sponsor a new monument of Walter Raleigh since he popularised tobacco in this country. Ken seemed quite receptive to the idea and BAT came up with the sponsorship funds. George Young MP for North West Hampshire overheard our conversation and asked whether I had anyone in mind to do the work, because he could recommend a sculptress, Vivien Mallock, in his constituency. I went to see her near Andover and commissioned the monument and then I got a local firm to donate a granite base. The monument was installed in the grounds of the Church, near where Raleigh grew up and was unveiled by the Duke of Kent in 2006.
While I was on the Works of Art Committee, I was also very involved with the marble statue of Baroness Thatcher by Neil Simmons, which had its head knocked off and had to be repaired. It is now on long-term loan to the Corporation of London and is on public display in the Guildhall Art Gallery. Then I helped oversee the bronze statue of Thatcher, which was commissioned from Antony Dufort in 2003 and finally unveiled in 2007. And now we have this exciting new project to cast a full-size monument of the Black Prince.
Yes, this is what we would particularly like to know more about. What was the genesis for this idea?
My stepfather was Lord Townshend, who was the founder and Chairman of Anglia TV. I remember him telling me that he was looking for some sort of logo or iconic image when they launched Anglia and he went to Asprey’s in Bond Street, because he was friendly with the Chairman to ask whether he might have anything suitable to show him. After a while they emerged from the basement with this sterling silver statuette of the Black Prince by Marochetti which my stepfather purchased on the spot.
He stuck a pennon with the word ‘Anglia’ on the lance and it became the emblem for Anglia television on a revolving base (fig.3). So in a sense, that is my inspiration for the companion piece. I’ve had the Works of Art Committee draw up a brochure about the project and a mock up of how it would look. People who have seen the brochure are intrigued by the project and I believe that it will gain a great deal of support.
What form will the monument take?
It will be cast in bronze, with the figure of Edward, the Black Prince on horseback in a triumphal pose, suggesting that he is returning from a foreign campaign . This contrasts with that of the Richard the Lionheart, whose gesture implies he is rallying his men. The Black Prince will be dressed in ceremonial costume with the quartered arms of France and England emblazoned on his tabard (fig.4). The base will be decorated with two bas-reliefs of scenes from The Black Prince’s life illustrating his magnanimous treatment of King John of France, after his defeat and a battle scene from one of the French campaigns. I’m not sure how we shall achieve these.
Well, there are three known versions of the Black Prince statue. The one which your stepfather bought from Asprey’s, one in the Royal Collections and in 2004 a further larger model went through the auction rooms in London and that one has bas-reliefs on its base (fig.5).
We should try to locate that version then, as it should provide all the information and detail we need.
Do you think that a statue of the Black Prince will resonate with the public? Most people have heard of Richard the Lionheart, but do you think they will have the same familiarity with the Black Prince?
His reputation as an important historical figure has survived and he should be brought to public attention. Interestingly, his name was included in the 1845 Fine Arts Commission’s ‘general list of distinguished persons of the United Kingdom’ to whose memory statues could be erected in or adjoining the New Houses of Parliament.
And why have you thought about this project now?
They are going to reconfigure the whole entrance to the car park and, if they are going to do that, it would be a golden opportunity, because the new monument would become an integral part of the new design of the forecourt.
How will it be funded?
It will have to be funded by private donations. I don’t think in this day and age, you should tap the poor old tax payer, although we might get some lottery funding. It has been a timing issue, I shall have to discuss it with the Parliamentary Estate, the Lord Speaker or Black Rod, but ultimately if their lordships would like it, then it’s up to them, this is not a Commons matter.
There is a vogue for combining the traditional with contemporary work, for example, shows at the Wallace Collection with Damien Hirst and Landy at the National Gallery. Have you thought about installing a piece of contemporary sculpture to complement Richard the Lionheart, instead of casting the Marochetti.
I thought about that, but the intellectual rebuttal for that is that it wasn’t exactly a contemporary sculpture when Marochetti himself did it. Historicizing, looking back at the Gothic Revivalism went with the House. It would be a wholly fallacious argument to say there needs to be a modern red rabbit in Old Palace Yard.
In the light of this proposal for a modern cast of Marochetti’s Black Prince to be placed in front of the House of Lords to pair with Richard the Lionheart, 3rd Dimension asked Dr Philip Ward-Jackson, the leading authority on the sculptor to provide us with some background on Marochetti’s later career and to explain, why to an extent, ‘the jury is still out’ on the sculptor’s later works.
EXTRA-PARLIAMENTARY PROCEEDINGS. BARON MAROCHETTI’S LAST DECADE
by Dr. Philip Ward-Jackson
Baron Carlo Marochetti died at the end of 1867, amidst the preparations in Paris for his son’s wedding. Born in 1805, by today’s standards he was not an old man, but for the previous five or six years he had been battling on in face of a mounting critical onslaught, whose effects were probably worsened by fires in his London home and studio. In 1861 his chief supporter in this country, Prince Albert, had died, and from this point the hegemony in the field of public sculpture which he had appeared up to that moment to be assuming, began to encounter serious challenges. The opprobrium had been there from the start. As early as 1838, ten years before he came to London, the British public had been told that whatever success he enjoyed in France could be ascribed to his liaison with Madame Dosne, mother-in-law and ex-lover of the influential French politician Adolphe Thiers. Letters and photographs can only give a faint idea of the man’s fabled charisma. This was accompanied by a great, though not always dependable artistic ability, which meant that, despite a continued rumble about his unscrupulous way of pursuing commissions, and an ongoing waspish buzz from The Art Journal and other organs of the press, he seemed able, for at least a decade after his arrival here in 1848, to maintain a seemingly unstoppable upward momentum. The chief weapons in his arsenal, apart from artistic skill, were the support of the royal family, and that of his friend Henry Reeve, editor of The Times.
The open spaces around the recently completed Houses of Parliament were the main battlefield on which Marochetti concentrated his forces, but in the end this was to be the scene of his most conspicuous rout. It all started in 1853, when the so-called West End Peel Committee requested a site in New Palace Yard for Marochetti’s colossal statue of Sir Robert Peel. Only after the sculptor’s death was a reduced version of this finally put in place, but long before this Marochetti’s moment of glory had come in 1860, when the equestrian statue of Richard Coeur de Lion, which he had created for the Crystal Palace in 1851, was erected in bronze in Old Palace Yard (fig.1). At the time of its inauguration, rumours circulated of Marochetti’s plan to provide it with a companion statue of the Black Prince, also on horseback, a combination, The Illustrated London News opined, which would represent ‘the age of chivalry and bigotry in their wildest extremes’. Around this time also, three great railway engineers, Isambard Kingdom Brunel, Robert Stephenson and Joseph Locke, died in rapid succession, and Marochetti was commissioned to produce statues of them. The site he envisioned for them was alongside the Institution of Civil Engineers, in the area then described as St Margaret’s Churchyard, which forms part of what we now think of as Parliament Square. The Office of Works at first said yes to two of them, but later reneged, saying that the area was reserved for statues of politicians. All three had eventually to be erected elsewhere. The Black Prince never got beyond maquette stage (figs.4 & 5), and the statue of Sir Robert Peel was almost universally condemned. Later, one MP claimed in Parliament, that when he had created the Peel, Marochetti had been ‘in his decadence as a sculptor’. The statue was melted down and replaced by Matthew Noble’s inoffensive statue. Possibly, like the engineers, the only offence of Marochetti’s Peel was its unapologetic modernity, but we may never know.
In the research for my book Public Sculpture of Historic Westminster, Part 1,(pmsa publications), I was delighted to find in The National Archives an exchange of letters between the Office of Works and Marochetti, dating from the summer of 1861. He was being consulted on a project for a metalwork screen punctuated with pedestals for statues, to surround Parliament Square. The metalwork in question may have borne some relation to the strange Tudor-Gothic railing which enclosed the square between 1869 and World War II. Marochetti did not much like what was being proposed and said so, adding that, because of the statuary which he himself was creating for the area, he had a special interest in seeing that they got things right. Clearly the Prince Consort had succeeded to a degree in convincing officialdom of Marochetti’s standing as a man of taste, but even he might have agreed, a few years later, had he lived, that there was a limit to the amount of work a sculptor should take on. In the words of Horace, ‘Even good old Homer nods’, and to this adage not even Marochetti in his final years was an exception.