Monday, September 30, 2013

Sculpture of the Day: A Relief of Queen Victoria, 1899

Relief of Queen Victoria
Terracotta,, 1899
Robert Wallace Martin
The Victoria & Albert Museum

Robert Wallace Martin (1843-1923) was commissioned by the V&A to create this relief in commemoration of the laying of the foundation stone of the Victoria & Albert Museum on May 17, 1899. This event—the launch of the V&A from the South Kensington Museum—would be the last public state ceremony which the Queen attended.

Though specific to the V&A, the relief, however, didn’t come directly into possession of the then-new museum. The relief was completed and fired in 1899 and it was, then, submitted to the museum’s governors for their approval. The governors liked the likeness, but were bothered that it lacked pigment. They wanted a colored relief.

Martin threw a fit. He never took criticism well, but especially when he found it to be coming from people he thought unworthy of judging his art (which was pretty much everyone, in his estimation). He stormed out of the room with the plaque tucked under his arm and, when he returned to his studio, instructed that the relief be destroyed. Thankfully, no one listened to him and the plaque was put away. It remained at the Firm of R.W. Martin and Brothers of Southall until the dispersal of the Martin Collection at Sotheby's in October of 1924. Upon that auction, it ended up in a private collection until it was returned to the V&A by Maurice Isaacs in 1943.

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