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Queen Victoria’s Equestrian Portrait Statues
Sculpture historian Philip Ward-Jackson explores statues of Queen Victoria on horseback and unravels a battle royal between sculptors seeking the prestigious commissions to make an equestrian portrait statue of her.
Publisher: Liverpool University Press (April 2019), 88pp., b/w & col. illus.
The sculptured 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 a 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.