Tuesday 25 September 2012

Sir John Cass Institute, 31 Jewry Street EC3

This powerful, vigorous figure striding purposefully out of his niche high over Jewry Street is Sir John Cass (1661-1718), alderman, sheriff and MP for the City of London.
As a merchant he amassed considerable wealth and left most of it to a foundation for education that still prospers today.
The statue is a copy of a life-size figure in lead created by the brilliant Louis-Francois Roubiliac (1702-1762) who was born in Lyon but made his home in London from 1730. It is a baroque masterpiece, full of life and movement.
The original was kept in the Sir John Cass primary school in the East End. Recently it was restored by Rupert Harris and moved to the Guildhall where it would also be safer and more accessible to the public. At the same time, several copies were made in fibreglass with lead powder impregnated into the surface.
Coincidentally, the 1898 Cass Institute (by A.W. Cooksey) had an empty niche over the entrance of exactly the right size, and one of the copies was placed in it. It looks as though it had always been there.

The new copy of Roubiliac's statue attracts all the attention now, but the other carving on the entrance bay rewards a look.
On either side of the statue are Baroque-style swags of impedimenta associated with education, art on the left and science on the right. It is all very practical, with lots of tools including an artist's palette and maulstick, sculptor's tools, T-squares, globe, telescope, gears and pinions, pincers and a retort.
Supporting the arch over the front steps are heads of boy and girl pupils surrounded by fruit. No attempt is made to make them look antique, even though they wear traditional charity school headgear. Very charming.

1 comment:

Hels said...

I know this isn't the purpose of your post, but I am amazed the City of London kept the name Jewry St. All of England's Jews were expelled by King Edward I in 1290 in devastating circumstances. You would think that The City would have instantly changed the name.