Journal Article

Wyatt's <i>Wellington</i> and the Hyde Park Corner Controversy

P. W. Sinnema

in Oxford Art Journal

Volume 27, issue 2, pages 173-192
Published in print January 2004 | ISSN: 0142-6540
Published online January 2004 | e-ISSN: 1741-7287 | DOI:
Wyatt's Wellington and the Hyde Park Corner

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This essay examines the controversy that led to the removal of Matthew Cotes Wyatt's colossal equestrian statue of the First Duke of Wellington from the triumphal arch at Hyde Park Corner in 1883, almost forty years after its original placement. The statue's ignominous banishment to Aldershot represented a clash between two dissonant claims about the nature of sublimity. On the one hand, Wyatt's monument was a singular expression of the ‘industrial sublime’; its sheer size inspired J. M. W. Turner to commemorate its casting in his 1847 canvas, ‘The Hero of a Hundred Fights.’ On the other hand, throughout the 1840s Wellington had been increasingly celebrated as an exemplar of the ‘practical sublime’, a peculiarly English constitution that made of him the chief instantiation of ‘national qualities’ for the Victorians. Aspiring too boldly toward the gargantuan, unparalleled in size by other such monuments in the capital, Wyatt's statue seemed to pay tribute to the ego of its creator rather than to the increasingly popular distinction of the subject it represented; in this sense, it unintentionally fixed the wrong reputation. It was too big in at least two senses, threatening to overwhelm (by deflecting attention away from) not only the triumphal arch on which it was placed, but the popular image of the man most biographers and apologists were trying to affirm in the service of England and Englishness – the archetype of candid masculinity and unassuming fidelity, the supreme exemplar of what Charles Greville, in his tribute to the Duke, called ‘severe truthfulness’ complemented by ‘an ever-abiding sense of duty and obligation.’

Journal Article.  0 words. 

Subjects: Art Forms ; Art Styles ; Art Subjects and Themes ; History of Art ; Theory of Art

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