Thursday, 19 August 2010

Thames House, Millbank SW1

When the Security Service (better known as MI5 despite being renamed as far back as 1931) moved into the former ICI building just down the road from the Houses of Parliament they were lucky enough to inherit a couple of sculptures that are not only of the highest quality but also rather appropriate. Dating from 1928, they depict St George (left) and Britannia (right) and are by Charles Sargeant Jagger MC.
St George is difficult to interpret. His sword stands point-down in front of him, surrounded by supplicating figures. He holds an amorphous object - the dragon's head?
Britannia also has a sword and supplicating figures, and seems to be holding chests of some sort. The profits of sea-borne trade?
The keystone of the arch above (which used to span Paige Street until the building was converted for the spooks) is equally mysterious. The bearded figure looks like Old Father Thames but is blindfold and holds the sword and scales of Justice.
Most oddly, the balance has the Monarch's crown on one side and a working man's flat cap on the other.
Frankly, the symbolism eludes me.

It doesn't seem to be known who did the other sculptures on Thames House, but they are not nearly craggy enough for Jagger.
The keystone over the visitors' entrance is indisputably Old Father Thames (again), wearing a shell with dolphins on his head. On either side spreads boating paraphenalia including sails, oars, boathooks, lifebelts and mooring chains. The swags of flowers presumably symbolise the prosperity the river brought to London.
The final keystone is a rather lovely girl with her long tresses knotted under her chin and wearing a scallop shell coronet. Bet she has a fishtail where her legs ought to be.

1 comment:

Capability Bowes said...

Although most "Ideals" are portrayed as women (sometimes confusingly; there's a statue in front of St. Mary Le Strand representing "Brotherhood" which is a woman holding two male children) its not completely unknown for them to be male; think of the Angel of Christian Charity on the Shaftesbury Memorial (please don't call it Eros because its not right and it annoys me!). So there's no real reason why "Justice" couldnt be male.

I imagine that the headgear in the scales imply that Justice knows no rank and treats the king and the commoner with equal fairness.