Saturday 21 November 2009

3-5 Bishopsgate EC2

When the Royal Bank of Scotland decided to build a grand City of London office in Bishopsgate in 1877, they knew they had to compete with the still-new National Provincial headquarters up the road.
So they brought in Thomas Chatfeild Clarke to design a suitably solid, bankly building and he commissioned the firm of F.G. Anstey of Regents Park to cover it with architectural sculpture.
F.G. Anstey was one of those large firms of carvers (others included Daymond, Seale and Aumonier) that covered Imperial London with stone heraldry, swags of fruit and busty classical ladies. Not a lot seems to be known about these firms except where one of their number managed to break out as an art sculptor like Gilbert Seale or Eric Aumonier.
The RBS facade consists of a grand arcade at ground level supported by Ionic columns, with giant Corinthian pilasters above. Anstey filled the spandrels of the arcade with chubby children representing the usual collection of Arts, Science and Commerce and, to be honest, they are not very good. Their cheeks are so round they look as though they are sucking two gobstoppers each.
At the extreme left is Architecture, two young classicists in front of a model of this very building.

Next is Painting, with a muscular nude model behind wrestling not very convincingly with a python.

Commerce and Communications holds a bag of gold in one hand and Mercury's staff in the other.

Astronomy is looking down the wrong end of the telescope, the duffer.

Justice's scales are broken, unfortunately, and she poses next to an array of judicial instruments including a sword, axe and pincers, all of which would be regarded with deep disapproval by Amnesty International.

Agriculture has a sheaf of wheat, a sickle and a plough.

Music holds a pipe organ that is much smaller than the lyre that floats extremely awkwardly behind. I have included a couple of the heads on the keystones to show how much better they are - presumably they came out of Anstey's standard catalogue so his carvers knew how they were meant to come out.
Finally a couple of young fellows find solace in Religion, with flames of the Holy Spirit floating about.

1 comment:

Conrad H. Roth said...

Presumably the second one is painting and sculpture as well, since the model behind resembles a reconstructed Laocoon