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Title: Queen Victoria, Prince Albert and the patronage of contemporary sculpture in Victorian Britain 1837-1901
Author: Martin, Eoin
Awarding Body: University of Warwick
Current Institution: University of Warwick
Date of Award: 2013
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Queen Victoria (1819-1901) and Prince Albert (1819-1861) have long loomed large in Victorian sculpture studies. Numerous scholars have examined the public statues of Victoria and Albert that were erected throughout the United Kingdom and across the British Empire between the 1840s and the 1920s. Yet, to date, the couple’s own patronage of sculpture has been largely overlooked. In light of this lacuna in the scholarship, this thesis examines the formation, display and dissemination of Victoria’s and Albert’s sculpture collection; explores the public sculpture projects with which they were involved; and analyses contemporary responses to their patronage. In so doing, it reveals what sculpture meant to Victoria and Albert personally; what their patronage meant to the contemporary sculpture profession; and what impact they had on the wider history and historiography of Victorian sculpture. The thesis is organised chronologically and broadly divided into three periods, representing three distinct but interrelated trends in the formation, arrangement, dissemination and reception of Victoria’s and Albert’s collection and the changing status of royal patronage. The first is the period between Victoria’s and Albert’s marriage in 1840 and Albert’s death in 1861. In this period, the couple’s patronage was prolific, varied and widely disseminated. They commissioned and acquired an extensive amount of sculpture for the royal residences and closely involved themselves with numerous public sculpture projects such as the sculpture programme in the New Houses of Parliament. This thesis demonstrates the complex imbrication of the couple’s public and private patronage of sculpture by revealing the extent to which their involvement with public projects informed their private patronage and the degree to which this fed into their public image as patrons. The second part looks at the decade after Albert’s death, a period in which Victoria concentrated her patronage almost exclusively on memorial busts and statues of him. Her various memorial commissions have often been treated interchangeably as simple indexes of her legendary grief. This thesis restores specificity to this body of memorial sculpture and uncovers the extent and sophistication of Victoria’s patronage in this period. However, it also shows the damage done to her reputation as a patron through her seemingly relentless desire to commission posthumous portraits of Albert. The third part concentrates on the last three decades of Victoria’s life. It reveals the extent to which she remained active as a patron and the degree to which her taste for sculpture evolved in the 1880s and 1890s. Yet, Victoria’s patronage was indelibly associated with mid-century sculptors whom Edmund Gosse, chief evangelist of ‘The New Sculpture’ dismissed as representative of ‘the dark age’ in the history of British sculpture. At a time when public statues of Victoria by some of the leading sculptors of the age were being erected across the globe, her position as a leading patron of contemporary sculpture was steadily undermined by the perception that she was stuck in the past.
Supervisor: Not available Sponsor: Arts and Humanities Research Council
Qualification Name: Thesis (Ph.D.) Qualification Level: Doctoral
EThOS ID:  DOI: Not available
Keywords: DA Great Britain ; NB Sculpture