H.M.S. Excellent - A Pair of Naval Brigade Bronze Figures, 1900
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Overall: 40cm (16in)
Bronze. A pair of figures modelled as Naval Ratings in rig of the late nineteenth century equipped for shore service with the Naval Brigade, one wearing the hot weather Sennet hat and armed with a cutlass and pistol, the other leaning against a rocky outcrop and holding a telescope at his back. The tally bands of both figures inscribed H.M.S. Excellent. Each stamped ‘Elkington & Co / Copyright’ to the base.
Silver versions of the present figures grace the wardroom tables on formal occasions at the Royal Navy shore establishment H.M.S. Excellent on Whale Island, Portsmouth. The figures commemorate Excellent’s role in the land warfare training and gunnery instruction, as exemplified by the crew of H.M.S. Terrible when guns were landed to participate in the Siege and Relief of Ladysmith in the Second Boer War, and few months later in support the suppression of Relief of the Peking Legations. Drawn from detachments of sailors and Royal Marines, the Naval Brigades were the main means by which British seamen saw active service between 1850-1914 as no ship to ship actions were fought during the period.
Though unsigned the present bronzes are likely to be the work of sculptor George Halliday (fl.1888-1912). Born in Scotland, he worked as a medallist and chaser in Sheffield. His known output includes figures in silver and bronze for the Birmingham art founders Elkington & Co. including a regimental commission for the Seaforth Highlanders in the form of a figure of the 1st Baron Seaforth (1754-1815) Chief of the Mackenzie Clan, and an 18 carat gold presentation casket made by Elkington for the City Corporation as a gift to the King of Italy. By the late 19th century Elkington & Co. had established themselves as leading goldsmiths, silversmiths, electrogilders, electroplaters and general metallurgists, During this period the company operated retail premises at 73 Cheapside, London which were opened in 1893. Other branches flourished in northern cities and included St. Anne's Square, Manchester; 84 St. Vincent Street, Glasgow, and at 32 Northumberland Street, Newcastle.
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