Saturday 19 January 2013

Boy with a Dolphin, Grosvenor Gate, Hyde Park W2

Boy with a Dolphin cuts a curious figure, a handsome young boy wrestling a particularly grotesque denizen of the deep. It is by Alexander Munro (1825 to 1871), the sculpting member of the Pre-Raphaelite Brotherhood.
The model was Greville Macdonald, son of the fairy story writer George Macdonald.
A plaque near the work relates how Charles Dodgson, then merely a mathematician, came to visit Munro while Greville was sitting. Dodgson suggested that Greville would be much better off with a marble head, the clinching argument being that the hair would not require combing. Later, Dodgson sent Munro a cartoon of his friend's horrified reaction to the idea.
Dodgson became a friend of the Macdonald family, getting them to read his manuscript of the Alice stories to the children to find out if they would really appeal to young people. Macdonald was so impressed he persuaded Dodgson to lengthen the story.
Irrelevant factoid: Greville Macdonald had a brother called Ronald.

Thursday 10 January 2013

Norwegian Embassy, Belgrave Square SW1

These charming plaques of Coade stone were originally installed at the Danish-Norwegian Consulate in Stepney, conveniently located to serve the many sailors in London Docks, in 1796. In 1968 they were moved to this more prominent location on the Norwegian Embassy "by courtesy of the Greater London Council", it says on a brass plate below. I take this to mean the GLC allowed it but the Norwegians had to stump up for the cost.
The right hand plaque shows chubby little putti in the two main divisions of agriculture, animal husbandry and crop cultivation, but without the rivalry that led to such distressing consequences for Cain and Abel.
On the left, more putti cultivate the Fine Arts: Painting, Sculpture and Architecture.