Wednesday, 10 September 2008

Congress House, Dyott Street WC1

From the pavement in Dyott Street and you can look through the sheet glass walls of the staircase and canteen of Congress House right into the central courtyard, where stands Jacob Epstein's Pieta, the Virgin Mary cradling the dead body of Christ. It was made in 1955 as a war memorial.
The figures pack quite a punch. Christ is shrunken, almost deformed in death, with one arm dangling uselessly and his practically featureless head lolling back. Mary is traditionally portrayed gazing both piteously and with pity on her Son's face, but Epstein has her looking accusingly upwards. It's a face we often see on the TV news from the Middle East today, staring up at us from the scene of some atrocity.
The wall behind, incidentally, was originally clad in green marble but for some reason that was replaced with the the sort of tiles usually found in the changing rooms at municipal swimming baths.
Unfortunately, the view from Dyott St is partly obscured by scaffolding at the moment so you can only see Mary's feet. I had to blag my way into the TUC canteen to get this shot.

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