Hyde Park Corner Wellington Monument Waterloo Figures, 1889
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Height: 44cm (17.25in) - 57cm (22.5in)
Provenance: H.R.H. Prince Henry, Duke of Gloucester (1900-1974)
Bronze. A group of three reductions of the four figures at the corners of the equestrian statue of the Duke of Wellington at Hyde Park Corner, London. Comprising a Guardsman of the 1st Foot Guards, a Colour Sergeant of the 23rd Royal Welch Fusiliers, and a Private of the 42nd Royal Highlanders (The Black Watch). Modelled by Sir Joseph Edgar Boehm, R.A. and cast by the art founders Elkington & Co. Each raised on an ebonised wood stepped plinth inset with bronze cast uniface medals.
The present bronzes owe their origins to the 1882 remodelling Hyde Park Corner. From 1846 the site was dominated by a colossal statue of the victor of Waterloo, the Duke of Wellington, paid for by the rank and file of the Army, and which pleased nobody except the Iron Duke himself, who could admire it from his grand house directly opposite. Moreover the statue sat on top of Decimus Burton’s Triumphal Arch. The redevelopment plan relocated Burton’s arch to its present position at the top of Constitution Hill, and banished the old Wellington statue to Aldershot. A new equestrian statue of the Duke was to be sited opposite Apsley House. A committee under the chairmanship with the Prince of Wales appointed the Queen’s Sculptor in Ordinary Sir Edgar Boehm to carry out the work.
The original contract provided for a plain, granite base only, but in November 1886 Boehm told fellow Royal Academician Sir John Everett Millais ‘there is a proposal to put four soldiers of the Waterloo period - one on each corner.’ The idea suited Boehm’s instincts for realism and was intended to represent the four nationalities of the Union. For accuracy in representing the uniforms and equipment, Boehm turned to the history painter Eyre Crowe, who was considered an authority, asking for particular assistance with the guardsman’s bearskin, which he complained he could not get right. The finished result is far larger than the version worn during the Napoleonic period. It represents the type awarded to the 1st Foot Guards in the month after the battle when they also gained by Royal Proclamation the name Grenadier in recognition of their repulse of Napoleon’s Old Guard Grenadiers at Waterloo.
The monument was officially unveiled by the Prince of Wales, grandfather of Prince Henry, on 21 December 1888. The contrasting impassiveness of Wellington and the liveliness of the soldiers was noticed by the ‘Art Journal’ which called the latter ‘dramatically demonstrative. In every case there is a distinct research of individuality of character.’ In response Boehm exhibited two large plaster models of the Grenadier and Enniskillen Dragoon at the Royal Academy of 1889 , creating an enthusiasm for the bronze models of the present type. The Grenadier was produced in appreciable numbers of around 100 as the result of a regimental commission. Examples of the other figures are scarce, but may be found in the National Army Museum, The Guards Museum and at Woburn Abbey, Bedfordshire.
Sir Edgar Boehm, Bt., R.A. (1834-1890) was born in Vienna, the son of the director of the Austrian Imperial Mint. He came to London 1848 and studied for three years, mainly at the British Museum; and afterwards in Italy, and at Paris, and Vienna, where he won the First Imperial Prize in 1856. In 1862 he settled permanently in London and later the same year first exhibited at Royal Academy. He took British nationality in 1865, and was appointed A.R.A. in 1878 and R.A. in 1882. He was a Lecturer on sculpture at Royal Academy and received the membership of several foreign academies. Boehm enjoyed a constant flow of commissions for public monuments, portrait statues and busts and became Sculptor in Ordinary to Queen Victoria in 1881. His notable works include Lord Napier of Magdala in Queen’s Gate, Kensington; the Prince Imperial (killed in the Zulu War of 1879-80) in St George’s Chapel, Windsor; Gordon of Khartoum in St Paul’s Cathedral; Thomas Carlyle on Chelsea Embankment; the free standing figures of Queen Victoria and the Prince of Wales on Temple Bar Memorial, Fleet Street; and the portrait head of Queen Victoria for the 1887 coinage. Boehm was closely linked to Princess Louise, Queen Victoria's artistic daughter, who was the first to find his dead body in his studio off the Fulham Road.
Prince Henry, Duke of Gloucester, K.G. (1900-1974) was a great grandson of Queen Victoria and the soldier son of George V. Henry went to Eton and the Royal Military College, Sandhurst. Commissioned as a second lieutenant in the King’s Royal Rifle Corps, he served in the 10th Royal Hussars from 1921 but at his father’s insistence carried out many royal duties. During the Second World War, he was in France with the B.E.F. in 1940, carried out a major tour of forces in the Middle East in 1942 and became Governor-General of Australia in 1944. In later life he lived with his wife Princess Alice and their two sons at Barnwell Manor, Northamptonshire. Royal biographer James Pope-Hennessy visited the Duke at Barnwell, and on first arrival made a trepidatious entrance into the ducal lair replete with military momentous: ‘no-one was about. A fire was burning in an iron basket in the fireplace. It was a low, panelled hall with some steps up into the passage and on to the big staircase. In a window embrasure stood a bearskin on a stand, complete with chinstrap. This empty threatening bearskin made me quail all over again.’ Yet, of the Duke himself he observed, ’Prince Henry is one of the finest and most authentic specimens of the race available for study to day. He is tall and bulky, and his head wonderfully Hanoverian, flat at the back and rising to the real pineapple mint of William the Fourth. He has protruding Guelph eyes. I could hardly take my eyes off him for the forty-eight hours I was there; he looked now like his father, now slightly like the Duke of Teck, occasionally glimpses even of Queen Mary. He is immensely kind, potentially irritable man, whose chief aim in life is to laugh. This, as is well known, he does in his own manner: an hysterical piglet squeal which becomes uncontrollable and which I found very infectious.’