Research Point: Portrait sculpture

A sculpture portrays a sitter quite differently than a picture; its presence comes, in part, from being bodied forth in the full dimensions of life, from  space in the same way as real people. That gives it, so to speak, a head start. But not the least fascination of Presence is how such objects come to resemble portraits in the first place, and how they get this potent look of life.

There are a few portrait statues outside St George’s Hall Liverpool

Queen Victoria and Prince Albert both by Thomas Thornycroft.


(c) Susan Devonport

The next 2 are by Charles Bell Birch                            

This statue of Major-General Earle shows him ready for battle.

Major-General-Earle(c) Susan Devonport

Disraeli(c) Susan Devonport

This statue of Disraeli, 1st Earl of Beaconsfield shows him with the ceremonial garter of the Knight of the Garter worn just below the knee.

The above statues are all from the Victorian era but the following statues are from the late 20th century.  The legendary Bill Shankly sporting a football scarf outside Anfield,  home of Liverpool Football Club


and Dixie Dean holding a football (NB no longer in this position outside Everton Football Club)

Project-6-Fiting-the-frame-to-the-subject-fit-frame(c) Susan Devonport

All these examples show how hard it is to show a subject’s status or achievements in a sculpture compared to a painting.   Queen Victoria and Prince Albert are immediately recognizable to most people but what if the subject of the sculpture isn’t.  For instance in the mid 19th century people would have known that Major-General Earle was killed in the Sudan when he was en route to Khartoum to rescue General Gordon but how many do today?

One of the obvious techniques a sculptor can use to convey the subject’s status or achievements is to include something that is associated with them as in the many statues of Queen Victoria were she is shown holding the Orb and Sceptre.

NB  After I had written this post I re-read the course material and was unsure if I had done this Research correctly but after watching this video from the V & A I realize that there are portrait busts and portrait figures.


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