Devoted to the unexpected details that help to make life in the city worth living
Friday, 15 August 2008
Marble Arch (south side)
What a sad thing the Marble Arch is, sitting forlornly in its traffic island ignored by the few tourists that brave the subways to get to Hyde Park, when it should be the star of the daily Changing the Guard Show at Buckingham Palace. It is a shadow of its former self as well. Sir John Nash had designed a much taller upper storey (the 'attic' storey) with sculpture commemorating victory over Napoleon, and an equestrian statue of George IV was to top it off. It was incomplete when that spendthrift monarch died in 1830, and Edward Blore was brought in to take control of the spiralling costs. He cut down the attic, thriftily recycling the sculpture in Buckingham Palace and the new National Gallery. The equestrian statue went to Trafalgar Square. Eventually, the arch got in the way of the enclosure of the forecourt and was removed to its present site in 1851. Its bleak surroundings today are the result of the horrible Park Lane widening scheme of 1961. The two reliefs on the south side are by E.H. Baily, RA, the sculptor most famous for the statue of Nelson on his column. On the left, a Roman naval warrior stands in front of a galley with an upturned prow and bronze ram. He is chatting up a woman who is definitely not a dockyard floozy but Justicia, as you can tell from the bundle of rods round an axe (the fasces) she is carrying. To the right, Peace and Plenty are in animated conversation over the Flame of Liberty.