Statue: Frieze of Parnassus - Wren
Erection date: 1872
Site: Albert Memorial & The Frieze of Parnassus (52 memorials)
SW7, Kensington Road
The monument, commissioned by Queen Victoria and designed by George Gilbert Scott, was built 1864-72, and the statue of Albert was installed in 1875. Even for a Victorian edifice the excess of decoration is extraordinary - we suspect the design suffered mission creep.
On the Frieze of Parnassus are depicted 168 men, 1 woman and two dogs, gender unknown. The woman is Nitocris, a historically questionable pharaoh who, it is claimed, built the third pyramid at Giza.
The men are segregated by field of fame. Reading anticlockwise from the south-west corner: Armstead carved the south and east sides, populated with musicians, poets, musicians, painters, grouped by nationality; Philip carved the north and west sides with architects and sculptors, cleverly arranged chronologically so that the Egyptian architects turn the corner in the same space with Egyptian sculptors.
Remarkably the whole Frieze was carved on site. In the selection of the figures, only one exception to the "must be dead" rule was allowed: George Gilbert Scott himself. Actually only 167 men are represented, one of them twice: Michelangelo as a painter and again as a sculptor. The dogs are Hogarth's Trump and a generic greyhound associated with Veronese.
Normally one cannot get close enough to the Frieze to take satisfactory photos but in May 2017 we joined a tour of the monument which gave us the proximity needed. We photographed all the figures in the Frieze but have decided to publish only (with a few exceptions) those already on London Remembers. Many of the others are little-known outside their field and have no connection to London. See Wikipedia for the entire list and some good photos of the whole Frieze.
The monument has many other figures of an allegorical nature, which are well covered at The Library Time Machine. Another page at the Library Time Machine has some interesting photos of the monument under construction.
Ian Visits managed to get a tour of the usually inaccessible undercroft, the structure that supports this monument.