Glasgow - City of Sculpture
By Gary Nisbet
Baron Carlo Marochetti
(1805-67)
Pietro Carlo Giovanni Marochetti was born in Turin, on 4 January 1805, the son of a lawyer in the service of the Emperor Napoleon. He was raised in Paris and became a French citizen in 1814. He trained as a sculptor there with Bosio and Gos at the École des Beaux-Arts before completing his studies in Rome.

His glittering career took off in the late 1820s, when he started exhibiting work at the Paris Salon. In 1829, he made his reputation with his gold medal winning statue of A Young Girl Playing with a Dog, and enhanced his prestige as a major sculptor with his subsequent commissions in Paris for the Altar in the Church of the Madeleine (1834); the relief panel of The Battle of Jemappes on the Arc de Triomphe (c. 1833-6); and the tomb of the opera composer Vincenzo Bellini in Pere-Lachaise Cemetery (1836).

He produced numerous portrait busts and genre groups in marble and plaster, and became celebrated for his magnificent bronze equestrian statues of Emmanuel Filiberto in Turin (1833); The Duke of Orleans, Paris; and Richard the Lionheart in London (1860).

A popular figure amongst European Royalty and their courts, he fled to Britain during the Revolution of 1848, accompanying the deposed French King, and quickly endeared himself to the British royal family and aristocracy with his urbane personality and brilliant sculptural style.

He settled in London, living at 30 Onslow Square (later at 34) and worked from a huge studio and foundry in Sydney Mews. Receiving a number of commissions for marble portraits and public monuments, his celebrity irritated his rivals who criticised his public work as being too "flashy and theatrical," citing Richard the Lionheart as a typical example of his showing off.

Amongst his many other public monuments are: Lord Clive, Shrewsbury (1860); The Duke of Wellington, Leeds (1855); Lord Clyde, London (1864); Robert Stephenson, London (1871); the Duke of Wellington Column, Strathfield Saye; and Sir Jamsetjee Jejeebhoy in Bombay. He also collaborated with Sir Edwin Landseer on the four colossal bronze lions for Nelson's Column in Trafalgar Square, which were cast in his own foundry.

Marochetti provided Glasgow with four bronze statues, three of which are equestrian: the Duke of Wellington in Royal Exchange Square (1840-4); Queen Victoria in George Square (1854), which was moved from St Vincent Place and altered 1866; and the equestrian Prince Albert, also in George Square (1866). His fourth statue in the city was pedestrian: James Oswald (1856), which was moved to George Square from Charing Cross in 1875;

Despite the criticism of his public work by his peers in England, the Illustrated London News hailed his statue of Queen Victoria in Glasgow as "by far the finest statue of [the Queen] that has yet been produced." ( ILN , Vol 25, 16 September, 1854, p. 249), whilst his monument to Prince Albert in Glasgow was so admired by the Queen that she commanded that a copy should be made and erected on Smith's Lawn, Windsor.

Marochetti produced three different models for the Queen Victoria statue which reveal that significant alterations were made to the design before the present monument was re-erected in George Square, in 1866.

A photograph of the first model reveals that he initially intended the Queen to hold a lance and penant in her right hand, rather than the sceptre of the second and final models, and that the position of the horse's left hind leg has been changed from a raised, trotting stance to a standing position.

This was done in 1866, when the statue was moved to George Square as a companion piece for the new statue of Prince Albert.

Victoria's pedestal is also different from that one originally erected for her in St. Vincent Place, in 1854. The present one is a copy of the grander, architectural pedestal produced for Prince Albert's statue.

Marochetti also executed the Crimean War Memorials at the former British Military Hospital at Scutari, Turkey (1856), and in St. Paul's Cathedral, London. He crowned his English career with the commission for the effigy portraits in marble of Prince Albert and Queen Victoria in the Royal Mausoleum at Frogmore, Windsor.

Among the international honours bestowed upon him were a Baronetcy of the Italian Kingdom, becoming Baron Carlo Marochetti of Vaux (after his father's chateau), and the Legion d' Honneur. In England, he was elected ARA , 1861, RA , 1867, having exhibited at the RA from 1851. Marochetti died suddenly at Passy, France, and was buried in Vaux-sur-Seine. He left an estate valued at £9,000.

Glasgow's Disgrace: Coning the Duke

Marochetti's most controversial work in Glasgow is the statue of the Duke of Wellington, which has become known as 'The Joke of Wellington' (Nisbet) due to its regularly being adorned with traffic cones and other objects by weekend revellers.

After suffering considerable damage as a result of this, a campaign was instigated by Gary Nisbet, the author of the glasgowsculpture.com website, in January 2005, to heighten the public and City Council's awareness of the statue's importance, and to stop the 'coning' (Nisbet) once and for all.

Having been taken up by the press (e.g. ET , 'Statue's cone is not a prank...it's vandalism', 24 January 2005, p. 5), the success of the campaign resulted, briefly, in the City Council removing the traffic cones promptly, and to a gathering consensus that 'coning' is now as detrimental to the city's image of itself as a city of culture, as much as it is damaging to the fabric of the monument.

The statue's future safety was later put in doubt, however, by the then new Leader of Glasgow City Council, Mr Stephen Purcell, who publicly endorsed the 'funny side' of its 'coning', and who reversed the council's policy of removing the cones ( ET , Who gave the duke his first cone head?, 30th December 2005, p. 21).

Since then, the coned statue has been adopted by the city as an icon and tourist attraction in the mistaken belief that Glasgow's citizens and foreign visitors will appreciate the vandalism as a positive image for the city and an example of its inhabitants' cheeky humour, despite the fact that the statue is one of the finest public sculptures in Europe and that its Listed Grade A status reqires that the City Council protect it from physical harm.

In recent years the 'Joke of Wellington' bandwagon has been leapt on by a number of individuals and organizations who have sought to profit financially from the vandalism through its use in souvenirs, art work, and advertizing and promotional material.

Unbelievably, two of the organizations who have thrown their reputations on the scrap heap of indecency and misjudgement in promoting and encouraging the vandalism are the Merchant City Heritage Trust, a publicly funded conservation body whose remit is otherwise to conserve and protect historic structures in Glasgow's Merchant City, including the Wellington Statue, which is the most important sculpture in the district; and the Glasgow City Marketing Bureau, another publicly funded body which as recently as September 2011, launched a phone app to promote the city, with which its users can 'play' at coning the statue.

Perhaps the most outrageous example of a publicly funded organization cashing-in on the statue's vandalism is Glasgow Life, which runs the city's museums and art galleries, and which promotes and profits from the vandalism by selling souvenir t-shirts and other tourist trash emblazoned with images of the coned statue in the Gallery of Modern Art (GOMA), which stands directly behind the statue.

The principal promoter of the vandalism, however, has been the Evening Times newspaper, which has made a fortune from using images of the coned statue in its advertizing and rarely misses an opportunity to promote it as a symbol of the city, whilst at the same time, with stunning hypocricy, condemning vandalism elsewhere in the city.

As a result of this breathtaking dereliction of duty towards the care and maintenance of this magnificent work of art, Glasgow's Wellington statue is now the only public monument in Britain which people are officially encouraged to climb onto at great risk to themselves and others, to adorn it with traffic cones, stickers and grafitti, and generally abuse for the benefit of the city's tourists and purveyors of cheap, tacky souvenirs.

Sources:

  • DNB, Vol 12;
  • MacKay ;
  • Chelminsky Gallery;
  • ILN [Queen Victoria], Vol 25, 16 September, 1854, p. 249;
  • ET , Who gave the duke his first cone head?, 30 December 2005, p. 21.
 
Works in our Database:
1: George Square (City Centre),
George Square
Equestrian Monument to Queen Victoria
(1850-4, St Vincent Place; re-erected 1866, George Square)

Sculptor: C Marochetti; Foundry: C Marochetti
2: George Square (City Centre),
George Square
Equestrian Monument to Prince Albert (1863-6)
Sculptor: C Marochetti; Foundry: C Marochetti
3: George Square (City Centre),
George Square
Monument to James Oswald (1856, Sandyford Place; re-erected 1875, George Square)
Sculptor: C Marochetti; Foundry: C Marochetti
4: Royal Exchange Square (City Centre),
In front of the Gallery of Modern Art
Equestrian Monument to the Duke of Wellington (1840-4)
Sculptor: C Marochetti; Architect: J Smith (pedestal);
Foundry: Soyer (statue); de Braux (reliefs)
 
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