Friday 10 December 2010

27 Southampton Street WC2

27 Southampton Street dates from 1707  but its main interest is, unusually, the plaque over the front door put up in 1900 to commemorate the residency of the actor, impressario and Shakespeare idoliser David Garrick.for nearly 30 years.
The plaque is unusual on several counts. Firstly, its quality and cost (it is cast bronze). Secondly, unlike most plaques it is the work of a top-flight sculptor, Henry Fehr. And thirdly, it was paid for by the freeholder, the Duke of Bedford, who was not known for his generosity. He even got his personal architect, Charles Fitzroy Doll, to sketch out the design.
A bust of Garrick circled with a laurel wreath stands on a plinth with the inscription. On either side stand two Muses, helpfully labeled. Less helpfully for today's Londoners, the labels are in Greek, but one of the advantages of a scientific education is a working knowledge of the Greek alphabet so I was able after only a bit of head-scratching to identify them as Melpomene (left) and Thalia (right).
Melpomene, the Muse of Tragedy, holds her dagger in her right hand. She traditionally also carries a club but Fehr clearly thought that would be rather unladylike so she holds a slim, elegant mace with a crown hanging round it instead.
Thalia holds the mask of comedy and a shepherdess's crook. Both are sad and pensive

1 comment:

Hels said...

I am not anti those little blue oval things that English Heritage puts on homes that once housed important people. I think it is a wonderful idea.

But how much more beautiful is a cast bronze over the door. I realise the Garrick plaque is actually quite modern. But imagine an expensive, well designed and relevant plaque that was contemporary with the person being celebrated.

Alas popularity comes and popularity goes. Rembrandt was HOT in his early career, couldn't sell a painting in his late career, died in a pauper's grave and is hot again now.