Friday 15 October 2010

London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine, Keppel Street WC1

The London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine was built in 1926 by P. Morley Horder and Verner O. Rees, with a huge budget from the Rockefeller Foundation. It was designed in a stripped-down classical style - where the entablature would be has a band carved by Alan Howes with the names of famous medical men.
Over the front door is a stone version of the School's seal, designed by Allan Wyon. It shows Apollo and his sister Artemis riding in the sun-god's chariot.
Both deities were associated with medicine. Apollo was god of prophecy, music and medicine and Artemis combined roles as goddess of hunting and chastity with that of comforter of women in childbirth.
The palm behind recalls their birth on the island of Delos, when a palm tree sprang up miraculously to give shade to their mother Leto in her labour.
The seal also includes the caduceus or snake-entwined rod of Asclepius, god of medicine and Apollo's son, but the sculptor has replaced it with four snakes writhing dramatically on either side.
Was this the work of Howes or Wyon himself? The sunburst behind the seal would be typical of Wyon - take a look at his East Wind on the London Underground building.
One odd thing - Artemis is holding the reins as Apollo aims his bow. A woman driving a man? Never happens in real life.

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