Famous and Forgotten Faces

By Jenkins, Simon | The Spectator, March 15, 2003 | Go to article overview

Famous and Forgotten Faces


Jenkins, Simon, The Spectator


PUBLIC SCULPTURE OF THE CITY OF LONDON by Philip Ward-Jackson Liverpool University Press, L62.50 (hardback), L29.95 (paperback), pp. 520, ISBN 0853239770

I was much attached to Kaled. She stood at the corner of Fleet Street and Chancery Lane, pert, stylish, mocking the scribes and hacks scurrying round her feet. She was faintly androgenous, a pageboy Tiresias who saw and knew all that passed along that street of shame. She is there today, much battered but still with her swagger.

Nothing peoples a city as do statues. The more inhumane the architecture the more desperately we cling to relics of humanity, even if they are in stone and metal. Nobody seems to notice them. How many Fleet Street hands salute as they pass effigies to King Lud, Elizabeth I, Mary Queen of Scots, Northcliffe, Edgar Wallace, Prudence, Justice and Liberality? But that makes our enjoyment of them the more intimate.

The Public Monuments and Sculpture Association is engaged on a massive project to record urban statues throughout Britain. The latest and largest, Public Sculpture in the City of London, is a glorious work. Given the condition, and often obscurity, of many of these statues, this is also a call to arms. God forbid they should ever be removed to a museum. They alone stand between us and interminable sheets of steel and glass.

Most early statues were created as integral to the buildings in which they stand. Like the Elizabethan figures that adorned Ludgate and Temple Bar, art and architecture were fused in a single decorative project. The Royal Exchange would thus be incomplete without Westmacott's sculptural pediment, a commercial updating of the Parthenon marbles. The Blackfriars pub is a gallery of Arts and Crafts reliefs which would be stars of the V&A were they not, mercifully, still in situ.

Interwar architects could still handle ornament, often in the aggressive `health and efficiency' style of Reid Dick's horses outside Unilever House. …

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