Wednesday, 19 August 2009

Westminster Public Library, Great Smith Street SW1

The old Westminster Public Library, now an Indian restaurant, may have been built as part of the same complex as the old Public Baths next door, and by the same architect, but the sculpture could not be a greater contrast.
The young Henry Poole's bathers are vigorous and completely contemporary, and there is even a hint of the future Art Nouveau in their strong swirling patterns and the sunburst.
The library sculpture, on the other hand, is official, off-the-shelf and retrograde: heads of literary men of undisputed classic status. The sculptor seems to be unrecorded, so I imagine they were bought from one of the usual firms such as Daymond or Seale.
Shakespeare and Milton are at centre stage, as always on Victorian libraries. Shakespeare (below) is flanked by Cervantes and Dante. Milton's companions (top) look horribly familiar but I can't quite place them. Goethe and Jonson? Anyone got any better ideas?

5 comments:

Anonymous said...

That's not Dante (who was clean-shaven), it's Chaucer. Also, that may well be Philip Sidney or Edmund Spenser, rather than Cervantes, though I'm not sue about that.
As for the two with Milton, isn't that Tennyson on the right?

ChrisP said...

Thanks for that, Anon. Why didn't I think of Chaucer? So obvious.
I did, however, think of Tennyson but he was still alive (just) so I suspect he might not have qualified as 'classic' enough.

John Sargent said...

Dryden to left of Milton possibly?

John Sargent said...

It is Dryden and it is Tennyson. See listedbritishbuildings.co.uk

Chris Partridge said...

Thanks John. All now identified. The internet is a wonderful thing.