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  • 1. 70 | Sculpture Journal 17.1 [2008] Public sculpture’s origins: an Elizabethan defence David Hulks The Public Monuments and Sculpture Association (PMSA) has recently put an interestingly historical note of clarification onto its website that may merit the atten- tion of other sculpture historians. The note is made under the heading ‘Public Sculpture: What Counts’ and is addressed to researchers working for the PMSA on its National Recording Project and the Public Sculpture of Britain series, published by Liverpool University Press for the PMSA. They need to know what they should and should not be including in databases they are compiling. What ‘counts’ as public sculpture, according to the statement, is work dating ‘roughly from the Stuart peri- od’. This is when sculpture of the sort the PMSA is interested in ‘start to appear in the street and in the landscape’.1 The certainty of this statement, however, is somewhat undermined by the further remark that ‘there are and will always be anomalies’; the word ‘roughly’ is also telling of some sort of hesitancy. Nevertheless, what is being put forward here, albeit with qualifi- cations, is a fairly clear suggestion that the point of origin for the emergence of public sculpture in Britain is somewhere in the seventeenth century, coinciding perhaps with the social landscape that the diarist Samuel Pepys observed and recorded. The implication furthermore is that in Elizabethan Britain there was no public sculpture – or at least it is nonsensical to think of it in these terms. The aim of this article is to challenge this point of view and to explore other possibilities. To understand why Tudor contribu- tions to sculptural expression might be routinely discounted, or at least underesti- mated, it is helpful perhaps to return to what might still be regarded as the classic text, Margaret Whinney’s Sculpture in Britain 1530–1830, first published in 1963 and revised by John Physick in 1988. Whinney’s start date of 1530 pushed back Rupert Gunnis’s date of 1660 for his Dictionary of British Sculptors.2 Whinney, however, considered these early years of only occasionally enlightened sculptural practice hardly significant by comparison to her main point of reference, the Italian Renaissance. For Whinney, a true Vasarian, the Renaissance in Italy is the main event, so that her chief concern in Part One of her book, devoted to the latter two-thirds of the sixteenth century, is to demonstrate the waves of impact from that event. Consequently, in her first three chapters she is mainly involved in demonstrating the relative poverty of British sculpture before the ‘lessons of the Renaissance’ were widely acquired. Hence her strikingly downbeat sentence to open Chapter 1, which suggests that ‘The history of English sculpture is a sorry tale’.3 In Chapter 2 she records some reason for hope, if not cele- bration, but what consolation there is con- cerns only a limited period of Italian and French influence which never really takes off, so that on the whole sculpture in this period is in her view essentially ‘isolated and dreary’.4 The catalyst for change, in Whinney’s view, was Inigo Jones, whose contribution to architectural and sculptural history rep- resents, according to Whinney, nothing less than a ‘transformation, perhaps the most striking in its whole history’.5 This was the product of what she assumes must have been ‘genius’; yet it was in her view largely an impact confined to architectural prac- tice. In sculpture, she says, there was no parallel ‘brilliance’, so that it was not really until the 1660s, in other words after the Restoration, that ‘sculpture proper’ really began. Up to that point ‘the influence of the Low Countries’ remained dominant, and because of this, while ‘slight traces of Italian influence (but of the High Renaissance, rather than the rising Baroque) can occasionally be seen’ – and the Antique collections of Charles I and the 2nd Earl of Arundel,6 are ‘not without their effect’ – nevertheless Whinney finds little that she can say is particularly signifi- cant. With the outbreak of Civil War in 1642, there are ‘no marked developments’ whatsoever, and this lamentable situation does not ease up until the Stuart monarchy is restored to power in 1660, enabling finally the sculptural genius of John Bushnell to emerge. Bushnell, according to Whinney, was the first sculptor to have ‘something new to say’, serving therefore as the most plausible point of origin for the ‘English Renaissance’. In other words, it seems Whinney fully accepted the initial Pointings
  • 2. suggestion made by Gunnis of a 1660 start date, although that date had been arrived at purely to make the earlier Dictionary project manageable.7 The basis for seeing the history of British sculpture in this way is the assump- tion that a belated ‘Renaissance’ took place in England as a kind of aftershock to the primary event in Italy. Whinney and others of her generation thought they could per- ceive a marked shift from a primitive, utili- tarian sculptural practice that could largely be discounted, into a new era where a much more enlightened and artistically liberated climate could emerge, so produc- ing a genuine sculptural flowering. This impression of great and sudden change, and the assumption therefore that it repre- sents a point of origin, is, however, fairly transparently the product of a blinkered Italocentrism that in recent years has been thrown into question. The tradition of regarding Italy as the single point of origin for what was in fact a much wider European development we now know to be a Western cultural construction rather than an objective fact. A new generation of art historians has emerged who either ques- tion the very notion of ‘Renaissance’ or who see it in wider European, if not global terms. They stress the collaborative nature of sculptural projects, are far more scepti- cal about the importance of virtuosity, and tend to be sceptical about the real influence of Italianism.8 All of this is crucial when it comes to deciding upon dating. The scholarly focus on Italian styles has created the impression that sculpture explodes onto the public stage in England only after the passing of events associated with the Civil War and the Restoration. There may, however, have been an earlier and equally valid public art initiated by Henry VIII and developed by the Elizabethans in a post-Reformation, English Protestant environment. The evi- dence for this earlier sculptural activity may be more difficult to come by since so much has been destroyed, but this does not mean it does not amount to an equally plausible point of origin. Another ‘what counts’ criterion for inclusion in the PMSA’s public sculpture category is visibility: whether or not the work ‘can be [or could have been] seen from the public highway’, in which case it may well have been made for private enjoy- ment but should also be counted as some- thing public. Pepys would certainly have understood this visibility principle, fond as he was of peering through gates at private palaces otherwise hidden behind high sur- rounding walls: ‘We went through Nonsuche Parke to the house, and there viewed as much as we could of the outside, and looked through the great gates, and found a noble court’.9 The example given by the PMSA in today’s visual environment is Adrian Jones’s equestrian statue at Sandringham, Norfolk: a ‘rendering of Edward VII’s favourite race horse Persimmon’. Although the statue is behind a wall on the Queen’s estate and very much associated with the Royal Family’s private racing interests, Persimmon is also ‘clearly visible’, because of its size, and because it is raised on a pedestal and therefore ‘in the public eye’.10 The implication seems to be that, although there were undoubtedly many examples of outdoor sculptural works in Tudor, not just Stuart, England, nevertheless these earlier works were enjoyed only by an aristocratic elite and were not seen, or even known about, by the general public. The origins of public sculp- ture are, to this way of thinking, only estab- lished at the point when sculptural works are not just extant in England but more importantly ‘start to appear in the street and in the landscape’. Pepys was one of the first to observe the leakage as it were from the private sphere to the public domain as sculpture suddenly became observable. There is, however, evidence of an earli- er visibility. We might for example refer to the diary of Baron Waldstein (1581–1623),11 a Moravian nobleman who perhaps is not a very plausible ‘member of the public’, but who can be consulted as a way of gauging what might have been visible to ordinary Elizabethans. From Waldstein’s diary we have an account of various sculptural works located in palaces in the south-east of England. The problem, however, is in establishing whether or not he had privi- leged access to works that were invisible to the general public, or whether this was the equivalent of today’s public access to stately homes, so that many of the things that Waldstein saw might be described as rather like Persimmon – privately owned outdoor objects that nevertheless were widely known about because they could be seen from the street. 71 | Sculpture Journal 17.1 [2008]
  • 3. Martin Andrew’s reconstruction of one of the Tudor palaces that Waldstein visited, Theobalds Palace in Hertfordshire, includes evidence that at least one of the sculptural works that the Baron noted was indeed, potentially at least, noticeable to ordinary passers-by. This was a fountain incorporat- ing figures of Cupid and Venus, located within an inner courtyard of the palace. It was nevertheless recorded in a Parliamentary Survey of 1650 as being ‘clearly visible’ from the highway, even if this was only ‘when the gates are open’.12 Examples such as this show that, although the idea of public surveys only emerged later under Cromwell’s regime, it was nevertheless perfectly possible for ordi- nary people in Elizabethan England to observe in their surroundings glimpses of statues, fountains and other sculptural fea- tures. We might add that they also had their own sculptural objects, shown and used, for example, in seasonal festivities, as another visitor, Paul Hentzner (1558–1623), was able to observe.13 As we have seen and will further explore here, Henry VIII’s interest in the arts, and specifically his investment in works of outdoor sculptural decoration, were very well known to Whinney and her contemporaries but dramatically under- valued by them in terms of sculptural sig- nificance. According to the Italocentric perspective, England largely missed out on the cultural shift signified by the word ‘Renaissance’ and consequently remained until the 1660s stubbornly ‘Gothic’ – a cul- tural backwater refusing to move with the times, wedded to the new Protestantism and turning its back on Italian excellence. This, however, is not a perspective that would have been understood by the wave of Protestant noblemen who visited England in substantial numbers in the 1590s and the early part of the seventeenth century. These foreign visitors on the con- trary seem to have been universally impressed by the visual and material cul- ture they found here, including, as we shall see below, many a sculptural curiosity and feature. A lack of Italianate design was not an issue, indeed only to be expected, and gave visitors to England no sense of empti- ness or any idea that the English were not at the leading edge of artistic expression. Even at Nonsuch, famous for its un- usual awareness of Italian art,14 there is little evidence in fact that the Italian Renaissance had any great influence. While several writers, Whinney included, have speculated that such figures as Antonio Fantuzzi or Nicholas Bellin of Modena may have been employed on the Nonsuch project, the foremost authority on Nonsuch, Martin Biddle – who excavated the site in 1959 and has been working on it ever since – concluded in 1984 that in his view the programme for its famous stuccoes is ‘most unlikely to have been devised by Nicolas Bellin’.15 Biddle’s view, carefully argued in his important ‘Stuccoes of Nonsuch’ paper, is that the king himself devised the scheme, implying a quintes- sentially English conceptual origin. According to Biddle, even if Nicholas Bellin had been the advisor and perhaps even the artist who drew up the cartoons, he was nevertheless merely by doing this ‘keeping in touch with Fontainebleau’ – in other words, keeping up with the French.16 However, despite Biddle’s insistence that Nonsuch was decidedly English in both concept and design, ‘a vaunting of the Tudors, and a talisman for the dynasty’, the text of Whinney’s Sculpture in Britain was not corrected for the 1988 revised edition. The suggestion was retained that the work at Nonsuch was mainly to be credited to Nicholas Bellin, who not only had designed the stuccoes but had also ‘in all probability’ made them. Furthermore, ‘Henry VIII’s sudden attempt in the late 1530s to rival Francis I’, as Whinney puts it, ‘brought no parallel benefit to England’; it was work that, she says, while ‘fabulous’ nevertheless had ‘astonishingly little direct influence’.17 All of this is speculative rather than drawn from clear evidence, but rather than cor- recting these misconceptions, footnotes to the revised text further diminish Nonsuch’s importance, underlining Whinney’s original stress on foreign influ- ence.18 These notes do not appear to refer to Biddle’s ‘Stuccoes of Nonsuch’, remarking only that during extensive excavation work ‘no important sculpture was found’, and only ‘some small fragments of decoration have been recovered’.19 Biddle, however, had carefully recon- structed these fragments and published a very fine illustrated account long before the revised version of Whinney came out. His findings had shown that far from ‘no important sculpture’ being found at 72 | Sculpture Journal 17.1 [2008]Pointings
  • 4. Nonsuch, on the contrary many fascinating pieces had been recovered and extensive research had been done showing clearly the impact that Nonsuch must have had far and wide. John Summerson, who chaired the committee overseeing the Nonsuch excavation, in his companion volume Architecture in Britain 1530–1830, not only confirms the importance of French influ- ence but also introduces the idea of a ‘School of Nonsuch’ – a term fully justifi- able, he argues, since Nonsuch must have been ‘as influential in its sphere [i.e. in England] as was Rosso’s and Primaticcio’s School of Fontainebleau’ in France.20 It might be objected, however, that while the Englishness of Nonsuch and its widely appreciated reputation are undeni- ably important, they do not quite add up to the palace representing a plausible point of origin for the idea of public sculpture that we have today. For sculpture to be ‘public’ it has to be seen and enjoyed by the public; and the high walls of Nonsuch Palace, while perhaps not sufficiently high to pre- vent public curiosity, nevertheless suggest an experience very much restricted to a privileged and isolated elite. This situation, however, was to change dramatically in the early 1590s, when the ownership of the palace reverted to the Crown so that the former owner could settle his debts. At the point when owner- ship shifts from the private interests of Lord Lumley, son-in-law to Philip, 1st Earl of Arundel, to the much more political duties of the head of state, Queen Elizabeth I, Nonsuch very noticeably changes from being a private residence to the equivalent of what today would be called a ‘visitor attraction’ or ‘venue’ for ‘functions’. Not only does it become under Elizabeth’s reacquisition a place where international political conferences are common and diplomatic intrigue rife; additionally its gates are opened, on request rather than by invitation, to a new influx of foreign visitors motivated by simple cultural curiosity – an early modern form of tourism.21 Today’s equivalent would indeed be Sandringham, which is also notionally a private residence, a place of quiet retreat for the Sovereign and members of her immediate family. But Sandringham is also – and arguably mainly – a place of pub- lic interest and pilgrimage, not essentially different to the properties owned and man- aged by the National Trust. Sandringham’s parks and gardens in the twenty-first century include not only the private acqui- sitions of the Royal Family, including a garden statue of Father Time alongside a gilded bronze Buddha figure; they also feature a series of wood-carvings of mainly mythical figures, depicting classical allegories such as The Fall of Icarus and the local legend of St Felix.22 The royal gardens that Protestant noblemen and their entourages began visiting from 1592 onwards were not so different. Furthermore, the diaries they kept of their visits are arguably the equivalent of the records posted on internet sites such as ‘YouTube’ and ‘Flickr’ by travellers today. Biddle’s more recent and very thorough paper on the ‘Gardens of Nonsuch’ allows us not only to ‘observe’ this entry of sculp- ture into greater public awareness, but also to date it with reasonable accuracy.23 There were of course earlier visitors to the palace gardens, including Elizabeth in 1559, an event that must have spurred the garden- ers on to achieve some kind of finished spectacle. However, in terms of a truly sculptural experience, 1580–85 is when substantial free-standing figure-work was properly installed in the palace grounds and visitors began to trail around in a man- ner not unlike the way we walk around sculpture parks today. Initially, it seems, visitor numbers at Nonsuch were relatively small. However, in the 1590s and first decade of the seventeenth century, gardens such as Nonsuch were visited by quite substantial numbers, so that while they remained technically private, entered by request only, they were nevertheless part of the standard traveller’s itinerary and as such can fairly be described in terms of greater access and a widening of public awareness.24 This early cultural tourism was both visual and literary, indeed both were in- extricably linked. At Nonsuch, as else- where, stones featuring poetic inscriptions were just as important as those carved into architectural symbols and allegorical statues. Visitors were taken around the house and gardens not only noting what they saw but also writing down what they read. Much of the material seen on such visits in late Elizabethan England was high- ly elaborate and seemingly installed not 73 | Sculpture Journal 17.1 [2008]
  • 5. only for private delight but also for public consumption and political as well as artis- tic contemplation. The garden objects were interpretations mainly of classical mythol- ogy, benefiting from a relatively new liter- ary awareness not only of the classics, from Ovid to Vitruvius, but also of more recent writers from Alberti to Sir Philip Sidney. Lumley at Nonsuch, for example, had clear- ly attempted to adapt such imagery to more contemporary and even political pur- poses, ending up with a sculptural scheme that not only served to ennoble his family history but that also represented an apolo- gia to the Queen. Such an apologia was aimed, presumably, not only at Elizabeth; it was also a public statement, demonstrating submission to the authority of the Crown. The records of Lumley’s gardens are good enough for us to reconstruct them with some exactness. The most remarkable sculptural object to be found beyond the stateliness of the privy garden was the Diana and Actaeon fountain in the Grove of Diana, comprised of several mythological figures as well as inscriptions. Actaeon was represented in the moment of transforma- tion, being sprinkled with water by the cen- tral features on the fountain, Diana and her maidens. Such an arrangement was more than decorative. Lumley’s primary concern was to demonstrate his allegiance to Elizabeth, having earlier been sent to the Tower for his involvement in the so-called Ridolphi Conspiracy. Acteon’s punishment is therefore also Lumley’s: just as Actaeon continues forward towards Diana rather than running away from her, so too was Lumley chastened rather than defeated by his punishment. Biddle notes the extent to which Lumley’s textual equivalent of the apologia, ‘The Smitten Fisher at Length Grows Wise’ – verse that it seems Lumley directly commissioned and that was appar- ently made into a gilded inscription – is a semantic key to the way the grove as a whole was set up as Lumley’s personal but also public statement of visible regret.25 The important fact then about Lumley’s extraordinary creation at Nonsuch is that this was not simply a sculpture garden created for private pleasure, subsequently opened up to a limited extent and shared with carefully selected foreign guests. While it was that, it was also, just as impor- tantly, an early form of public art based on the rhetorical strategy of public apology. It seems, moreover, that this was a planned public sculpture project, not just a private expression of Lumley’s bookishness and renewed fealty to Elizabeth. It was an undertaking in fact very similar to the creation of sculpture gardens on country estates today, the primary purpose in Lumley’s case being to display objects of beauty, fascination and intellectual inter- est with the secondary benefit of simulta- neously transmitting ideas about family status and class allegiance. This short and admittedly rather schematic study of the sculpture gardens at Nonsuch is sufficient nevertheless to demonstrate that there was public sculp- ture in England long before the Stuarts and the later Restoration. Public sculpture was formed, it seems, in Elizabethan times, when it was fully functional both techni- cally and intellectually, entering the secu- lar sphere and public domain certainly in the 1590s. We can now return to Samuel Pepys in the 1660s to see if his perspective actually matches up to Whinney’s celebration of this moment as a new flourishing in English sculpture, effectively her point of origin. We left him near the start of this article peering through the gates at Nonsuch, glimpsing the ruined gardens and describing his albeit somewhat limited view of the external walls of the palace: ‘We . . . viewed as much as we could of the outside, and looked through the great gates, and found a noble court: and alto- gether believe it to have been a very noble house, and a delicate parke about it’.26 The point here of course is that Pepys is using the past tense; it seems there was very little left of the ‘noble’ and ‘delicate’ environ- ment that Pepys believes must ‘have been’ within and without the walls of Nonsuch. In Pepys’s time, such things were notice- ably lacking; hence his clear nostalgia for a golden past, and failure to register any English Renaissance. Sculpture gardens such as Lumley designed need regular maintenance, not least because they involve not just static effects but also the incorporation of vari- ous complex water movements. An equiva- lent today would be the gardens at Chatsworth, where gravity-fed systems supply the famous cascade, the new foun- tain, and most spectacularly a squirting tree – operated by a series of pipes, very 74 | Sculpture Journal 17.1 [2008]Pointings 1 www.pmsa.org accessed 6 August 2007. 2 R. Gunnis, Dictionary of British Sculptors, 1660–1851, London, 1953. 3 M. Whinney, Sculpture in Britain, 1530–1830, Harmondsworth, 1963, revised 1988. 4 Ibid, p. 31. 5 Ibid, p. 67.
  • 6. reminiscent of the water systems that Lumley created at Nonsuch.27 By the 1660s, however, the gardens at Nonsuch had become overgrown, the water features no longer functioned, and the sculptural arrangements were already dismantled – or at least were incomplete and probably obscured. Pepys, on a return visit to Nonsuch Park in 1665, notes that the exter- nal decorations are still largely intact: ‘all the house on the outside [was] filled with figures of stories . . . And one great thing is, that most of the house is covered, I mean the post, and quarters in the walls, with lead, and gilded.’ The gardens, however, he now describes as ‘ruined’.28 This is con- firmed by Biddle, who describes the period from 1645 to 1682 as one of general ‘aban- donment and decay’.29 After the Tudors, the Stuarts certainly did instigate artistic change, but any idea of a new flowering of public sculptural art seems simplistic if not entirely inaccurate. Did sculpture suddenly start appearing in the streets and in the landscape, signalling a sea change that we can think of now as an important point of origin? The evidence we have does not in fact suggest anything of the sort. The decline of the Nonsuch gar- dens recorded by the public commission of 1650 suggests a new parliamentary interest in urban renewal – quite natural given the extent and nature of political change – but not clear patronage nor substantial invest- ment. Certainly new statues were put up in London and elsewhere, but these new installations can generally be described as part of a programme of civic maintenance and replacement; there seems to be little or no evidence that new public sculpture installations represented at the time any- thing particularly novel or dramatic. To return to the Elizabethan period: as well as the innovations it seems were appearing on country estates such as Nonsuch, there was also new work and a programme of restoration and renewal tak- ing place in the cities. There is certainly clear evidence that in London, statues of Elizabeth, for example, were erected both during her reign and after it, and also carv- ings of the queen’s heraldic device, a gold- en rose. Again, foreign visitors give us a fairly reliable perspective on these and other examples of public sculpture in an urban setting. Such work concentrated on visualizing, it seems, mainly royal lineages and civic virtues, suggested by means of depiction and allegory. Thus Thomas Platter (1574–1628), passing through London in 1599, observed a stone statue of Queen Elizabeth set up on the tower of the prison in Blackfriars Road,30 and Hentzner while in London spotted another Elizabeth on the west side of the city gate known as Ludgate.31 In the case of Ludgate, we know that additionally, on the opposite side fac- ing east, could be seen newly restored ‘images of Lud and others’ as recorded by John Stowe (1525–1605), ‘all which was done at the common charges of the citizens’, the work carried out by the Crown in 1586.32 Stowe mentions other schemes as well, including an allegorical arrangement on the fifteenth-century Guildhall’s ‘stately’ south porch, which he describes as ‘beauti- ful with images of stone’ and accompanied by an inscription including the line ‘And thousands see them every year’; ‘There Justice, Fortitude, and Temperance stand/ Where find ye the like in all this land?’33 Hentzner also gives us an intriguing insight into the way public sculpture was sometimes relocated, whereupon it could change its meaning. Near Whitehall in London in 1598, he came across the gilded stone inscription that in the 1580s had been installed at Nonsuch, accompanying the Diana and Actaeon fountain, and serv- ing there, if Biddle is correct, as a coded apologia for the sins of Lumley: Actaeon It would cause resentment if a painter should choose to join a horse’s neck or a dog’s face to a human head. Diana lays a stag’s head on my neck. I demand against the unjust one my proper flesh. Diana There must be humanity if Parrhasius is not to paint nor Praxiteles carves the morals of a beast in human frame. Your inclinations are a stag’s, Actaeon. Why should there not be horns? Prudent myself, I lament foolish affections.34 Moved to the entrance of a London park, however, the inscription seems to have functioned differently. Hentzner simply records the verse, and presumably saw it as just another ‘curiosity’ for the public to enjoy. His nineteenth-century 75 | Sculpture Journal 17.1 [2008] 6 See J. M. Robinson, The Dukes of Norfolk, Oxford, 1982, pp. 97–116. 7 Agreement between Gunnis and Whinney is due to evident indebted- ness. Whinney records in her Foreword to the First Edition that ‘without the generosity of Mr. Rupert Gunnis, who has allowed me constant access to his library of photographs, answered endless questions, and given me much unpublished materi- al, the book could never have been written’; Whinney, as at note 3, pp. 9–10. 8 See, for example, N. Llewellyn, Funeral Monuments in Post- Reformation England, Cambridge, 2000, pp. 15–59. 9 26 July 1663; R. Griffin, 3rd Baron Braybrooke (ed), The Diary of Samuel Pepys, London and New York, 1825, p. 170. 10 As at note 1. The statue of Persimmon is an oversized equestrian portrait in patinated bronze depicting the horse as potent bloodstock. The Visitor’s Guide stresses the extent to which the estate benefited from the prize money that Persimmon’s victo- ries brought in; Duke of Edinburgh et al., Sandringham: Norfolk Retreat of HM the Queen, 1996, p. 48. 11 G.W. Groos (ed.), The Diary of Baron Waldstein, A Traveller in Elizabethan England, London, 1981. 12 M. Andrews, ‘Theobalds Palace: the gardens and the park’, Garden History, XXI, 2, 1993, p. 135. 13 Hentzner notes at Cambridge an ‘image richly dressed’ made by ‘country people’ – a depiction of Ceres. H. Morley (ed.) Travels in England During the Reign of Queen Elizabeth by Paul Hentzner, London, Paris, New York & Melbourne, 1889, p. 74. 14 See R. Strong, The Renaissance Garden in England, London, 1979, pp. 63–71. Here Strong stressed the influence of Renaissance Italy. More recently he has been sceptical of Italian influence, insisting on a ‘proud’ native aesthetic; R. Strong, ‘The Renaissance garden in England reconsidered: a survey of two decades of research of the period 1485–1642’, Journal of Garden History, XXVII, 1, 1999, pp. 4–5. 15 Author’s emphasis. 16 M. Biddle, ‘The Stuccoes of Nonsuch’, Burlington Magazine, CXXVI, 976, 1984, p. 412. 17 Whinney, as at note 3, p. 39. 18 At note 25, for example: ‘The only foreigners whose names are known are Nicholas Bellin and William Cure . . . There is no foundation for the legend that Holbein worked at Nonsuch’; ibid, p. 429. Summerson adds the name of Giles Geringe; J. Summerson, Architecture in Britain 1530–1830, New Haven and London, 1993, p. 36. Biddle confirms that Geringe succeeded the chief artificer (William?) Kendall; as at note 16.
  • 7. editor, Henry Morley, however, suggests how more thoughtful visitors and mem- bers of the public might have reinterpreted ‘this romantic inscription’ in terms of rela- tively recent historical events. The stone, he suggests, ‘probably alluded to Philip II [of Spain], who wooed the Queen after her sister’s death; and to the destruction of his Armada’.35 What this essay attempts to question, then, is the assumption that public sculp- ture first arose in Stuart England, along with the implication that before the seventeenth century it did not exist. The evidence in fact points to a more complex historical picture, and unsettles the very concept of history understood in terms of ‘origins’ and ‘firsts’. Interestingly, Henry Peacham makes a rather similar argument in The Compleat Gentleman (1634). Peacham was writing at a time when there had indeed been a step-change in public understanding of sculptural achievement and ambition, but not, he insists, any origi- nal invention. The Compleat Gentleman was dedicated to one of the sons of Thomas Howard, 2nd Earl of Arundel and Earl Marshall of England, who had, as Peacham was happy to acknowledge, altered the cul- tural landscape in England by his recovery of antique statues in Greece and Rome. Peacham’s suggestion is not that this ‘transplant[ing]’, as he puts it, of ‘old Greece into England’ represents anything physically new. Rather it represents, he suggests, simply a shift in aristocratic taste, a different set of expectations about pre- cisely what ought to be collected and dis- played. He is clear, however, that statues have been around since time immemorial. We even, Peacham says, ‘find idols among those savages that had neither writing nor money’.36 While Peacham intends to refer not to an English public but rather to the peoples of the East and West Indies, nevertheless his comments seem to confirm that ‘Statues, Inscriptions, and coynes’ (which in his view largely constitute the public sculpture of his day) had always been around, plentiful and everywhere, even if they were now exposed as unbearably ‘vulgar’ by comparison with the newly discovered ‘industrious and excellent’ antiques. The PMSA statement should therefore be revised, and should be regard- ed as largely arbitrary. It is simply not the case that public sculpture only ‘started to appear in the street and in the landscape’ in Stuart England. Examples of buildings such as the Royal Exchange (1566) in London, bristling with highly visible statues and sculptural objects, clearly refute this.37 Peacham did in fact suggest a point of origin, but not in his own time. After care- fully consulting his Bible, he decided that the first statue must have been erected ‘long before the two tables of the com- mandments’. This, however, is rather unhelpful. The only point I would argue is that Elizabethan public sculpture should not be discounted simply because people like Peacham advocated partial replace- ment in favour of new classical models. Their success in doing this would have been very limited anyway. In the public domain, statues of Ceres and Justice, seem- ingly common in Elizabethan times, would have continued to have meaning over and above new representations of obscure figures from classical mythology. Turning the clock back to Tudor England, it is clear that sculpture could already be found on country estates and was plentiful in towns and cities; although the density of these features is difficult to gauge and the quali- ty not only impossible but also inappropri- ate to judge.38 We can, though, say with confidence that decorative and symbolic public sculptural display certainly existed, and that it was sufficiently visible and spectacular by the 1590s to impress a new wave of foreign visitors. The very different situation that Pepys observed over half a century later it seems, by contrast, was neither novel nor particularly satisfactory, and therefore rather implausible, surely, as a point of origin. 76 | Sculpture Journal 17.1 [2008]Pointings 19 Whinney, as at note 3, note 23, and p. 39. 20 Summerson, as at note 18, p. 36. 21 The transfer of Nonsuch to the Crown and development of the site as an Elizabethan tourist attraction is described in J. Dent, The Quest for Nonsuch, Sutton, 1981, pp. 172ff. 22 The Fall of Icarus (2005), by Sebastian Seffert; Felix (2000), by Mark Goldsworthy. Father Time is from the Coade workshop, installed at Sandringham 1951. The bronze Buddha probably represents Vaisravana, chief divinity of the Four Heavenly Kings (cast 1689–90), installed at Sandringham 1870. 23 M. Biddle, ‘The gardens of Nonsuch: sources and dating’, Garden History, XXVII, 1, 1999, pp. 145–83. 24 On the rise in foreign visitor num- bers in the 1590s, see C. Williams (ed.), Thomas Platter’s Travels in England 1599, London, 1937, pp. 77ff. See also W. B. Rye, England as Seen by Foreigners in the Days of Elizabeth & James the First, New York, 1865, reissued 1967. 25 The full text, Brevis et vera descrip- tio (c. 1582), was commissioned by the local rector, Anthony Watson; Biddle, as at note 23, pp. 168–78. 26 Pepys, as at note 9. 27 Some of these were accidentally discovered in 1987. See Biddle, as at note 23, p. 162. 28 Pepys, as at note 9, p. 262. 29 Biddle, as at note 23, p. 167. 30 Williams, as at note 24, p. 179. 31 Morley, as at note 13, p. 74. 32 J. Stowe, A Survey of London (1598), Stroud, 2005, p. 54. Elizabeth and Lud and his sons survive at St Dunstan’s in the West, Fleet Street. 33 Ibid, p. 238. 34 Translation: Biddle as at note 23, p. 178, after Hentzner (1598), Waldstein (1600), von Schwarzstät (1609) and von Hessen (1611). 35 Morley, as at note 13, p. 34. 36 Peacham’s Compleat Gentleman (1634), Oxford, 1906, p. 106. 37 I am grateful to Margit Thøfner for several comments on this essay and for pointing out the visual significance and public impact of the opening of the Royal Exchange. For evidence of the latter, see Stowe, as at note 32, pp. 175–76. 38 For an example of such an attempt see V. Morgan, ‘The construction of civic memory in early modern Norwich’, in M. Kwint et al. (eds), Material Memories, Oxford, 1999, pp. 183–97.
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