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0099 J. Pedro Lorente, Monuments devoted to artists in public spaces around museums: A nineteenth-century strategy to enhance the urban space of art districts

RIHA Journal 0099 | 4 December 2014

Monuments devoted to artists in public spaces around museums:

A nineteenth-century strategy to enhance the urban space of art districts

J. Pedro Lorente

Editing and peer review managed by:

Begoña Farré Torras, Instituto de História da Arte, FCSH, Universidade Nova de Lisboa


Raquel Henriques da Silva, Foteini Vlachou


Monuments to kings or military heroes have always been positioned in main squares and avenues, whilst those erected to famous cultural figures were a novelty introduced in the Enlightenment and Romanticism, placing busts or sitting monuments to writers or musicians in secluded gardens and in the surroundings of libraries, theatres, etc. During the nineteenth century, monuments to artists became also a common feature in many cities, where a most likely emplacement for them was in front of some art museum. In a way, they were a complement to the ornaments of such building, usually decorated with portraits and inscriptions glorifying great artists; but the monument to Murillo erected in 1863 by public subscription in Seville's Plaza del Museo was also an urban milestone, catching the attention of promenading public passing along a lateral street. Later, the monuments erected in the piazzas around the Prado Museum in Madrid, or in gardens outside the Louvre, became a popular prototype, emulated in many other cities up to the early 20th century. Their role as interfaces between public spaces and museum sites would thereafter be taken over by other kinds of artistic landmarks: not monuments to artists, but monumental artworks, often owned by the museum itself, thus bringing part of its collection outside, as a welcome starter to prospective cultural consumers.



  1. Museums and monuments have a lot in common: they emerged as affirmations of collective memory. In the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries, the edifices of art museums, both newly built or remodeled, were often decorated as 'temples of art', with allegories of the arts or with portraits of artists. Yet, while there is a growing bibliography regarding statues and murals dedicated to artists in art institutions,1 very few publications focus on monuments of celebrated artists decorating squares and streets adjoining museums. This is probably due to the fact that, save for a few exceptions such as the piazzas in front of the Museo del Prado in Madrid, the most prominent instances of that nineteenth-century usage have disappeared. Many were gradually replaced in the twentieth century by other art ornaments in museum neighbourhoods. It is now time we assert their historical relevance from the point of view of the interaction between museums and public spaces. Such statues constituted fundamental milestones inasmuch as they were free-standing urban monuments detached from the walls of the institutions, usually uninvolved in their commission, which would originate from initiatives often paid by public subscription carried out by national or local authorities.


Antecedents in the cultural context of the Enlightenment and Romanticism

  1. Voltaire had claimed that the true heroes deserving commemoration should no longer be the generals who annexed territories but people who excelled in science and culture.2 This enlightened idea prompted not only a new 'cultural history' which gradually replaced traditional military and court chronicles, but also the appearance of new protagonists honoured in the public space. While statues formerly erected in squares and streets used to exalt monarchs, war heroes and saints, consonant with traditional moral hierarchies, little by little scientists and artists were also honoured by means of stone or bronze effigies placed in some public areas. Even Voltaire, Montesquieu, Newton, Goethe and many other intellectuals at the time were immediately put forward for monument exaltation as 'public men'.3 These initiatives, however, often remained nothing more than projects or, after debate and changes of mind about where they ought to be best placed, the statues were located in semi-public spaces or inside buildings linked to the cultural legacy of the man in question.

  2. A social, urban and iconographic hierarchy somehow lived on. Squares and principal avenues continued to be the preferred stage for leaders to display images of themselves in grandiloquent poses before present or future citizens and visitors. The portraits of eminent men from the world of culture, however, usually showed greater restraint and sobriety even in the locations chosen to place them, usually in areas of less public prominence or in semi-public zones. The busts of distinguished characters were in fact a recurring adornment in private gardens open to visitors and served as the inspiration for sculptures to be placed in some 'amusement parks' which enlivened large cities throughout Europe. One of the earlier instances was Vauxhall Park in London. It was a private enclosure where paying visitors could enjoy all sorts of recreational activities, especially dances and music concerts. As Handel's music was particularly popular, the sculptor François Roubiliac received a commission to erect a seated statue of the musician in 1738.4 This was not an isolated case, though it certainly was one of the most successful, and perhaps this was the type of sculpture Christian Cay Lorenz Hirschfeld had in mind when, in the last quarter of the eighteenth century, he published an essay on art within gardens. According to him, private gardens open to the public were the most appropriate settings for monuments to philosophers, writers and artists; a protocol often complemented by a second rule of decorum, according to which busts were more appropriate for philosophers, writers or artists whose minds had produced outstanding achievements while equestrian or upright statues ought to be reserved for portraying kings, military heroes, religious persons, orators or any other person who had played a leading role through the force of his arms and his entire body, as philosopher Arthur Schopenhauer argued in a text written in 1837.5

  3. However, there is an exception to every rule and some monumental projects in the eighteenth century seem to contradict these two protocols. This was the case of the renowned sculpture Parnasse françois, created by Louis Garnier in 1708-18 under commission from Titon du Tillet to immortalize Louis XIV as Apollo surrounded by his principal poets and musicians. It consists of a group of full-length statues originally designed to decorate the gardens of Versailles or a square in Paris, though none of these two destinations materialized. Daniel Villeneuve had an even more complex scheme. In his essay Le voyageur philosophe dans un pays inconnu aux habitants de la Terre, published in 1761 with the pen name Mr. de Listonai, he envisaged a square with the figure of the ruling monarch, complemented in secondary squares by the statues of other eminent men, placing side by side warriors, sages and artists.6 The planned monuments to Leibniz, Sulzer and Lambert which Frederick II agreed to erect in a new square in Berlin in front of the newly built library never came to fruition either, whereas modest monuments to poets placed in private gardens open to the public flourished in Germany to the point that they have been considered an emblem of the sensitivity Empfindsamkeit developed during the Enlightenment.7

  4. This pre-Romantic sensitivity was also shared by the famed Jardin Elysée in Paris, designed by Alexandre Lenoir in the gardens of the Musée des Monuments Français towards 1799. It was intended as an area for reflection whose grandiose name alluded to the mythical Elysian Fields conjured up by a beautiful mixture of rural woodland with funerary and commemorative monuments to great men from the past, among which men of letters such as Descartes or Molière figured prominently.8 There was no shortage of other monumental gardens, inspired by woodland areas surrounding ancient temples or around other 'pantheons' more metaphorical than funerary such as the Romantic park of Villa Puccini in Sconio, near Pistoia, decorated in 1827-34 with terracotta busts of prominent men such as Rafael and Canova.

  5. Within cities, the next step consisted of neo-classical monuments to honour the memory of great writers whose most natural locations were primarily green areas beside libraries. Later, in the Romantic period, monuments to writers were common throughout Europe and stood amidst flower beds or in little piazzas outside academies, libraries, theatres and other such urban sites. Some were even placed in main squares, as in many Italian cities in the Risorgimento period, where statues erected to Dante were full of political significance, since 'the father of the Italian language' had by then reached the status of a patriotic icon9. Given that almost all nationalist movements were so centred on the exaltation of their respective national language, it can hardly be surprising that statues to writers were given such prominence in public zones.

  6. But artists also became national icons, especially in countries where there was no unity of language. Already in Belgium by 1827, even before independence from the Netherlands, the possibility of erecting a monument to Rubens in Antwerp was contemplated in order to commemorate the two hundred and fiftieth anniversary of the birth of the painter, although the project did not materialize until a few years later, in the centre of Groenplaats, a historical site next to the cathedral, where some of the artist's masterpieces are housed.10 Likewise, other nationalist strategies resulted in what nowadays is considered the first monument in honour of an artist erected in a public space: the sculpture of Dürer by Christian Daniel Rauch under commission from Louis I of Bavaria in 1828 in Nuremberg, the city where the painter had been born. It is particularly relevant to remark here that this instance constituted a cardinal point in the symbolic social appropriation of this type of monument because the king would have preferred to place it within the court building, known as Burgfreiung, an open air patio of the imperial castle overlooking the city. The author, however, insisted that the city centre, not far from the artist's place of birth, was more appropriate. The square formerly called the Old Milk Market was finally chosen and became known as the Dürer-Platz. The monument's inaugural stone was laid to the sound of trumpets on 7 April 1828, the day of the three-hundredth anniversary of the death of the painter. It was celebrated with a massive pan-Germanic festival attracting artists and scholars from many German cities, though the final bronze sculpture was not inaugurated until 21 May 1840. Commemoration coins were even minted at the time depicting this statue of Dürer standing on a pedestal with paintbrushes in his right hand, looking straight ahead as he does in his self-portraits, with a typically German florid beard and long hair over his fur jacket.11 The exaltation of Dürer as a national paradigm was so successful that twelve years later the Germanisches National Museum was founded in a former monastery of Nuremberg. Its collection, mainly centred on the period of the eminent Renaissance artist, was a further typical Romantic nationalist endeavour. However, in Dürer's hometown, the monument and the museum extolling his patriotic significance were located far apart; reversely, in Colmar, birth-town of Martin Schongauer, the monument erected to him, a fountain with the standing portrait of the artist carved in stone in 1860 by Auguste Bartholdi, was placed in the garden of the cloister inside Unterlinden's Museum. Combinations of these two forms of cultural remembrance, monument and museum, put together as public landmarks of art districts would be further developments typical of a later urban stage.


The monument to Murillo in the museum square of Seville and its impact

  1. In Spain, nineteenth-century nationalism extolled the memory of the so-called Siglo de Oro, a designation originally referring to the great momentum reached by the Spanish language from Nebrija to Calderón, including great authors such as Cervantes, Lope de Vega or Quevedo; though visual artists from that period also gained increasing public prominence, even in terms of monuments in public zones. A very special case was that of Murillo, the Spanish painter most acclaimed by the Romantic generation internationally.12 It was hardly a coincidence that already by 1838 the idea of paying tribute to him by means of a public sculpture originated in Seville, his home town. Velázquez was less appreciated at the time and, from a local point of view, his career seemed less linked to Andalucia than to the Court in Madrid, whereas Murillo had spent most of his life in his birth-town. The first proposal came from the Liceo and was then adopted by Seville's Academy of Fine Arts and by the City Hall, though the final step towards its realization came from another cultural association, the Sociedad Sevillana de Emulación y Fomento, which in 1855 appointed a civic committee for the construction of a monument to Murillo. With the collaboration of its central office in Madrid the Sociedad Española de Emulación y Fomento managed to raise a total of 139,492 reales by national public subscription, headed by the local corporation and members of the Royalty, though the most part – 115,418 reales – was raised through a raffle of art works donated by artists and collectors. Nonetheless, despite sufficient funding and ample social support, the project was delayed by bureaucratic wrangling and the lack of agreement on where to locate the monument.13 The initial option was to place it in the Plaza de Santa Cruz, at the heart of the popular neighbourhood of the same name where the painter had resided. The small size of the square and the complicated layout of this part of the city were not optimal to guarantee the social exposure sought for the display of the monument and consequently a larger venue close to the City Hall was chosen in what was then known as the Plaza de la Infanta Isabel. But in the meantime the site that was intended for the monument was chosen in 1861 by the Municipality of Seville to locate a statue in honour of King Saint Fernando, on the occasion of the visit of Isabel II to the city the following year. It was thus decided that the Plaza del Museo, where some of the most famous paintings by Murillo are housed, would be the most suitable location. Finally, in 1863 the bronze portrait of the painter was erected there on a raised pedestal in the middle of this garden square. It was solemnly unveiled on 1 January of the following year, on the anniversary of his birth.

Fig. 1 Monument to Murillo by Sabino de Medina at Seville's Plaza del Museo, with its figure sideways (1a), and looking towards passer-by walkers coming from a lateral street (1b). (Photographs by the author)

  1. A comment must be made about the interesting design of the statue of Murillo. Firstly because the creator, Madrilenian sculptor Sabino de Medina, portrayed a peculiar iconographic ensemble. The bust is inspired by self-portraits of the artist though the figure does not hold paintbrushes and barely rests his left hand on a shelf where his palette and a sketch of the Virgin Mary are placed. His general body posture recalls the most famous devotional images painted by Murillo, the right hand over the chest, one leg forward in contrapposto, staring into the sky: this is precisely the new iconography of the Immaculata fashioned by Murillo as opposed to the traditional image with her hands joined together in the act of praying while looking down. Though used here in the portrait of the artist himself it highlights his fervent inspiration; exalting his devotion over his manual dexterity with his hand over his heart and his ecstatic gaze. That was the idea of Murillo which prevailed in Romantic Spain.14 While foreign collectors preferred his genre pictures portraying scoundrels, his homeland valued above all his religious paintings, many of which are treasured precisely at the Museo de Bellas Artes of Seville. It was therefore a coherent option to place this portrait of Murillo, so inspired by his own Catholic iconography, in the square in front of the main entrance to the former convent of La Merced, where Masses for his soul were offered after his death. However, these religious connotations were now supplemented by the practical need to indicate that an art museum was operating in this old building, whose baroque façade had not been redecorated with civic ornaments related to the arts (Fig. 1a). From this point of view, it was a consistent decision to place the statue of the artist side-on to the museum entrance and facing the numerous passers-by walking along the street which is now known as calle Alfonso XII, which links the centre of Seville to the Guadalquivir river (Fig. 1b). It brings to public attention a building whose side entrance might otherwise go unnoticed.

  2. In this manner, – the same as in front of libraries, theatres and concert halls where monuments to novelists, playwrights and composers seemed appropriate – a prototype of the monument to an artist in squares in front of museums was fortuitously created. Given that many museums were placed in old religious or aristocratic buildings or in purpose-built constructions whose architecture emulated cathedrals and palaces, it was also coherent to imitate their urban setting. Since the squares in front of churches were adorned with crosses or statues of saints, while public spaces adjoining parliaments, town halls or other seats of political power usually honoured patriotic heroes, sometimes public areas in front of art institutions would have portraits of artists. This was a modern derivation from ancestral ante portas monuments though they never fully ousted the statues dedicated to political grandees or similar personages, because museums were also a favourite showcase for the powerful, whose monumental portraits often continued to play a leading role in nearby urban areas, where they would be dignified as the founders of the respective institution or as generous patrons of the arts.15 However, while the portraits of the mighty often presided over the hectic life of main squares and great avenues, initially those dedicated to artists were more likely relegated to quieter areas. In this context, their erection in landscaped public spaces in front of art academies and museums marked the spread of their social standing in the public realm. Seville's statue of Murillo in the garden square in front of the fine arts museum constituted a major innovation in the interaction between museums and their urban background. Traditionally the visual elements used to lure passers-by into a 'temple of the arts' had been allegories of the arts or the names and effigies of artists adorning the building with murals, reliefs or free-standing sculptures decorating the edifice. That ornamental habit did not disappear, though in the second half of the nineteenth century a new strategy gradually spread giving more prominence to images of artists in urban areas around art museums. It would be far-fetched to pretend that this practice haphazardly introduced in Seville by Murillo's monument set an international vogue, though its replica in a garden square near the Museo del Prado might have elicited transnational repercussions.

Fig. 2 Monument to Murillo by Sabino de Medina in Madrid, with its figure side-on to the museum South entrance (2a) and facing the numerous passers-by walking along the Paseo del Prado (2b). (Photographs by the author)

  1. Circumstances surrounding this public monument in Madrid were also quite fortuitous and imprecise. The initiative appears to have come from the sculptor Sabino de Medina. On 13 April 1861 he wrote an application to the mayor of Madrid informing that the statue of Murillo he had been commissioned to create for Seville was about to be cast in bronze in Paris by Eyck and Durand, who could make a second copy for a little extra cost should Madrid, 'where most of the painter's admirable artworks were housed', wished to pay tribute to him.16 The sculptor made sure to add that the statue would look well in any street or square chosen by the City Hall though his indirect allusion to museum collections did not go unnoticed by the Corporation, who soon after informing the artist that his proposal had been accepted, sought permission from the Royal Heritage to place the statue in front of the Museo Real de Pinturas, whose façade already boasted the effigies of many other artists.17

  2. However, in order to avoid giving Murillo excessive prominence in El Prado, on 14 November 1864 the Works Committee of the City Hall suggested commissioning Sabino Medina to create a sculpture dedicated to Velázquez for the same purpose. The Fine Arts Academy of Madrid not only backed this idea but they also requested a third statue to be erected in front of El Prado dedicated to the architect of the building, Juan de Villanueva – though for the latter the City Hall chose to commission it from another sculptor, José Piquer. This sculpture agenda involved relegating Murillo to a small lateral piazza and reserving the main entrance for Velázquez, whose statue had been completed in bronze by Medina in 1868.18 But the revolution that year ousted the Bourbons and the project was put on hold. Eventually, in 1871 the monument to Murillo was unveiled in the square between the Botanic Gardens and one of the entrances to the museum. Emulating the location of its counterpart in Seville it was also decided here that the portrait of Murillo should not gaze upon the museum itself but at passers-by along the promenade of the Prado (Fig. 2).


Setting a trend: the first monuments to artists in public spaces around the Louvre

  1. In Paris, ever since the National Convention had been housed at the Tuileries Palace, its gardens had increasingly become a public stage of all sorts of monuments and standing statues of great men – including some artists – had adorned the façade of the Louvre in Cour Napoleon since the middle of the nineteenth century: by then, this was a common international procedure of architectural decoration.19 But no monuments to artists had been erected in Parisian urban public spaces around museums – strictly speaking we may not consider as such the statue of Delacroix ornamenting since 1890 the Jardin du Luxembourg, since it was placed near the Senate building, not at all in the vicinity of the Museum of Living Artists.20 This makes extremely rare the grand project to erect a monument to Velázquez in the Jardin de l'Infante, opposite the Flora Pavilion. His large equestrian portrait made by Emmanuel Frémiet has always raised comments about the uncharacteristic portrayal of a painter riding a horse, in the manner of a condottiero, though it would have actually been strange not to find an animal depicted in a work by this animalist sculptor, known nowadays mainly for the equestrian portrait of Joan of Arc in golden bronze placed in another square in Paris. What seems truly intriguing in this case is the idea for this monument in a landscaped public space opposite the Louvre; and the fact that it was the most famous Spanish painter could perhaps be quite telling of where its inspiration originated.

  2. Indeed, the Spanish connection is apparent also in the urban setting selected: the Jardin de l'Infante, opposite the Flora Pavilion of the Louvre. Created in 1722 for the Spanish Infanta María Ana Victoria, betrothed to Louis XV, this garden was surrounded by golden fences, that kept it separated from the hustle and bustle of city life, preserving its intimacy: this is how Claude Monet chose to represent it in an 1867 picture (Allen Memorial Art Museum of Oberlin, Ohio) where only a couple of lovers and some other solitary visitor stand inside, while modern traffic of carriages and crowds roars outside. This enclosed garden seemed secure enough to be considered, soon after the inauguration of the Louvre a 'natural' enlargement outside the museum, whose expanding collections could not be contained indoors; but subsequent projects to install sculptures there had faded.21 Yet, when the Ministry of Education's Director of Fine Arts Antonin Proust talked in 1890 with sculptor Frémiet about his Velásquez, at that time triumphing in the Salon in a plaster version, they both agreed that it should become a public monument in bronze and in the conversation it occurred to them that this garden by the Louvre could be a very appropriate location.22

  3. Serendipity, not premeditated decisions, had guided the creation of this equestrian monument from the beginning. It seems that the figure was inspired by the alguacil leading the parade of bullfighters in a corrida the sculptor had attended in Paris towards the time of the Universal Exhibition of 1889 and when he sent the plaster to the 1890 Salon des Artistes Français he cunningly identified the rider as Velázquez, with the hope that someone would turn it into a monument, either in Paris, Madrid or even in America.23 Indeed, after some administrative delays, the French State commissioned the next year a cast in bronze, which was legally ascribed to the national museums collections in 1893, but according to the Louvre's regulations the sculpture could not be exhibited in that gallery of great old masters, because the author was still alive: thus, following the suggestions of the sculptor, it was installed in early November 1893 at the Jardin de l'Infante. A spiritually uplifting green space, adjacent to the museum, which would be for more than forty years a most suitable setting for this statue honouring a famous historical figure (Fig. 3a and 3b). It was somehow understood as a monument to the noble condition of artists, since Velázquez is not represented as a painter but as a knight or caballero; moreover, it also epitomized the high status reached then in France by a historic master considered as the ancestor of the Impressionists and the muse of many other contemporary artists.24

  4. Almost at the same time, the Infanta's Garden was decorated with another monument by Emmanuel Frémiet also devoted to an artist, Auguste Raffet, the celebrated Romantic painter and lithographer whose most famous works at the Louvre Museum depicted military themes. A committee created in 1891 to commemorate him with a public monument had chosen to give the commission to Frémiet, who designed an equestrian statue inspired by a riding cuirassier featured in one of the works by Raffet. But the money raised was scarce, and even with the subvention by the Ministry of Public Works obtained by the sculptor the project had to be more modest: a bust portrait of the painter on top of a Corinthian column decorated with the bronze figure – after Raffet's lithography Le Réveil des morts – of a Grenadier drummer calling to battle with his tambour, surrounded by military trophies of past French glories (Fig. 4). For political reasons, this homage to a French painter would be given greater priority and public honors while the equestrian portrait of the Spaniard was slowed and materialized with lower profile celebrations: the sources refer to a mere official report of emplacement signed on 6 November 1893 regarding the protracted Velázquez statue, while the monument to Raffet had been unveiled in an official ceremony held three days before – although they had to use the plaster version of the bust; only later on was the portrait in marble installed on top of the column. It subsequently became one of the most popular attractions in the Louvre complex, as can be evidenced by the abundance of postcards devoted to it still to be found today at the stalls of bouquinistes on the Seine. Apparently, it was a best-selling icon for customers nostalgic of the Grande Armée, with its bronze ornaments of combative iconography stirring French sentiments of revenge after the 1871 defeat in the war with Prussia: they were all removed under Nazi occupation, and only the stone sculpture and column remained afterwards for more than two decades.25

Fig. 3 Monument to Velázquez by Frémiet in the Louvre's Jardin de l'Infante: coloured postcard c. 1890 (3a) and postcard c. 1925 (3b). (Vintage postcards)

Fig. 4 Early 20th-century postcards of Frémiet's monument to Raffet, at the Louvre gardens. (Vintage postcards)

  1. It is curious to compare the ambitious artistic conception of the Velásquez statue with the rather conventional monument to Raffet, not to mention its different political connotations. The latter matched more the composition and symbolism of the obelisk which had been erected in the middle of the Cour Napoleon on 14 July 1888 in memory of a bellicose politician deceased four years earlier, Léon Gambetta, whose statue was commissioned from Jean-Paul Aubé, a sculptor from the Lorraine region – a territory lost in the Franco-Prussian War. Aubé was also the author of a famous sitting portrait of François Boucher whose plaster version had gained acclaim in the 1888 Salon, which led to a State commission in 1890 to produce the marble statue. It was ascribed to the Louvre in 1892, but could not join the museum display due to the internal regulations forbidding works by living artists, thus it was intended for its surrounding gardens, which according to declarations in 1893 by Jules Comte, Directeur des bâtiments civils, were to be transformed into "une sorte de Panthéon de tous les maîtres de l'art dont les oeuvres sont la richesse de notre grand musée".26 However, only in 1894 was this portrait of Boucher installed at the Jardin de l'Infante: it can be spotted in turn-of the century-postcards featuring in the foreground Raffet's monument. Other vintage postcards focus on this sitting portrait of the Rococo painter, holding an oval-shaped canvas and paintbrushes close to a big palette offered by Cupido, contrasting with the large equestrian portrait of Velázquez in the background (Fig. 5a). But often such images wrongly identified the statue as a monument to Watteau (Fig. 5b), perhaps because it lacked a clear inscription and in the public imagination the setting was then associated with the most popular Rococo artist, celebrated by Symbolist poet Albert Samain in his 1893 book Au Jardin de l'Infante. It would remain there for long.27

Fig. 5 Early 20th-century postcards of Aubé's monument to Boucher in front of the Louvre, with the equestrian portrait of Velázquez in the background to the right (5a) and to the left (5b, postcard wrongly identified as Monument to Watteau).

  1. The fourth monument in this Parnassian garden arrived just a year later, after some administrative delays. A committee had been formed soon after the death of Jean-Louis-Ernest Meissonier in 1891, to raise funds for the erection of a monument in his honour combining public subscription with a subvention from the Ministry of Education and generous donations from the family of the painter. They chose the sculptor Antonin Mercié, who first proposed a neobaroque portrait with allegorical figures; but he was advised to accommodate stylistically to the pre-existing statues in the coveted location, the Jardin de l'Infante. Thus he produced a sitting figure like that of Boucher, represented also in pensive attitude, as if looking for inspiration: a thinking pose fitting the social conventions of decorum appropriate for intimate gardens adorned with portraits of people distinguished by their thought and creativity. But Meissonier had been famous for his patriotic military topics, thus his statue was accompanied by martial emblems at his feet, similar to those at the bottom of Raffet's monument (Fig. 6a). The inauguration took place on 26 October 1895 and a few days later some changes in the iconography had to be made, eliminating the hat of Napoleon originally accompanying the national flag. Perhaps this assured these military ornaments more endurance, contrasting with the fatal destiny of those at the bottom of Raffet's bust portrait, apart from the fact that the monument to Meissonier was all made in marble.28

Fig. 6 Mercié's monument to Meissonier at the Louvre's Jardin de L'Infante (6a) and Monument to Gérôme at the Louvre's Jardin de L'Oratoire (6b), combining a full-length portrait of him made by his son-in-law Aimé Morot with Gérôme's original bronze of a combat between gladiators donated by the family. (Vintage postcards)

  1. Curiously, most artists honoured at the Jardin de l'Infante had in common a taste for martial topics. It is thus not extraordinary that another monument was proposed there in 1898 to the glory of the Vernet dynasty of painters, so famous for their pictures of port citadels and Napoleonic battles.29 In any case, the next statue made for this modern Parnassus would be of a fighting gladiator, whose monumental dimensions overwhelmed the small-sized portrait of the artist represented. Pompier painter and sculptor Jean-Léon Gérôme died in 1904, and the following year the Académie des Beaux-Arts commissioned a monument to his memory, backed by Étienne Dujardin-Beaumetz, Undersecretary of State for the Fine Arts, who promised a place for it at the Jardin de l'Infante. However, that garden was already overcrowded with statues according to the architect in charge of the Louvre, who proposed instead the Jardin de l'Oratoire, symmetrically situated on the other side of the museum, facing Rue Rivoli. So, it was there that the new monument was inaugurated on 8 July 1909: a full-length portrait of Gérôme made by his son-in-law Aimé Morot combined with the original bronze of a combat between gladiators signed by Gérôme in 1878 and donated by the family (Fig. 6b). Interestingly, media coverage of the inaugural ceremony focused more on the fighters' figures by Gérôme, disregarding his portrait by Morot.30

  2. The innovative dual conception of the monument passed rather unnoticed; indeed, this strange novelty could have been another reason justifying a new urban setting, together with the iconographic peculiarity of the portrait which, in contrast with the aforementioned nineteenth-century predilection for self-absorbed artists, depicts Gérôme engaged in manual labour, dynamically involved in sculpting one of his most famous statues. In any case, the group of gladiators by Gérôme and the addition of his standing portrait was well received – much to the chagrin of sculptor Frémiet, who had intended to place in that location his monument to sculptor François Rude, which ended at the façade of the Dijon School of Fine Arts –; but the scarcity of postcards featuring it indicates that it remained quite unnoticed despite its endurance in situ for many decades.31 Even less fortunate were the following projects of monuments for the Jardin de l'Observatoire, a statue portraying the painter Antoine Vollon and another in memory of the painter Alexandre Cabanel. Both were to be paid by public subscriptions launched by the respective committees created on purpose; but the money came too slowly and the Great War aborted these initiatives.32


Further monuments in front of the Prado in Madrid and other international cases

  1. The statue of Velázquez in front of the Louvre no doubt stirred the old plan to erect a monument to him by the main entrance of the National Museum in Madrid. By then Medina's statue had probably been lost or forgotten. Thus a competition was organized in 1893 by the Círculo de Bellas Artes, a cultural association who lead a public subscription to pay for the cast in bronze, raising funds from Spanish artists. The winner, the sculptor Aniceto Marinas, offered to work with no remuneration, yet it was not until 1899 that his monument to Velázquez came to fruition. That was the year of the three hundredth anniversary of his birth and the unveiling was a top level political event, in the presence of Queen Regent María Cristina and her son, the future King Alfonso XIII. Once again, the statue represents the great master as a gentleman in elegant attire and otiose attitude, but here holding his tools in his hands – maulstick, paintbrush and palette –, key elements prevalent in portraits of painters as the iconic attributes of saints in religious statues (Fig. 7). However Velázquez is not working with them and, like Boucher or Meissonier at the Infanta's Garden, he too is seated, as if he had paused to reflect while his paintbrush remains suspended.33 Same as those Parisian precedents, this statue gives its back to the museum, used as photographic background for postcards and tourists' souvenirs and, contrary to the Murillo monument, the painter looks downwards, absorbed in a engrossed attitude, contrasting with the more active poses and commanding gazes typical of statues portraying politicians and soldiers.

Fig. 7 Monument to Velázquez by Aniceto Marinas in Madrid, with its sitting figure facing the Paseo del Prado in front of the museum main entrance. (Photograph by the author)

  1. Similarly, the next monument erected in front of the Museo del Prado was also a sitting statue of a pensive artist, placed with his back to the museum building. Its author, José Llaneces, had enjoyed for many years great commercial success in the French capital with his genre paintings. Upon returning to Spain, he presented this portrait of Goya, in homage to his most admired painter.34 It was then cast in bronze by Masriera and Campins in Barcelona and located on the new steps to the northern entrance of the National Museum of Art in 1904, where it remained for more than two decades, becoming a popular photo backdrop for photos and postcards (Fig. 8). In this case it was neither in a garden or square at street level, nor on the top of the stairs, ornamenting the entrance, but placed in a middle public space, like the sitting statues of two famous scholars, Isidore of Seville and Alphonse the Wise, by the façade of the Spanish National Library, where they both seem to be welcoming approaching visitors.

Fig. 8 Monument to Goya by José Llaneces in its original site by the North entrance of the Museo del Prado prior to 1925. (Vintage postcards)

  1. In the meantime, given that cultural policies and trends in the French capital were at the time followed in the rest of the world, emulations emerged in other countries as well. Sometimes reformulating classical monumental iconographies: for instance, a bronze sculpture by Robert Fabri, initially placed in 1896 in one of the sides of the steps to the main entrance of the Fine Art Museum in Antwerp as Fame crowning the Genius, became a proper monument to Van Dyck, when this heroic nude portrait of the great Flemish painter and the accompanying allegory were placed in 1899 at the rear of the museum with the inscription: "AAN ANTOON VAN DIJCK" (Fig. 9a) on a free-standing pedestal –which is now the only part left.35

  2. On the other hand, Victorian artists were also represented in the elegant frock coat typical of bourgeois dignitaries, but holding the symbols of their job: their statues standing in front of art institutions were like milestones publicly marking cultural districts. In London, the posthumous monument to John Everet Millais, a bronze sculpture by Thomas Brock portraying the painter before a studio stool, with his palette and a paint brush in his hands, was paid by public subscription at the initiative of a memorial committee chaired by the Prince of Wales and Edward Poynter – Millais' successor as President of the Royal Academy –, who decided that the most appropriate location would be the gardens of Millbank, by the Tate Gallery, whose founder had been a good friend of the painters and sought his advice in building that museum. Thus the art gallery housing some of Millais' best works became the symbolic background for his monument, placed in front of the main entrance in November 1905 (Fig. 9b), though it has now been relegated to John Islip Street, at the rear entrance to Tate Britain.36 A similar story, with different ending, is that of the statue of William Etty in York, his city of birth: a standing portrait carved in stone by local sculptor George Milburn and thoughtfully placed not by the former house of the Victorian painter, but in the middle of Exhibition Square in front of the city art gallery (Fig. 9c), looking across to Bootham Bar and the city walls, whose demolition he had successfully campaigned to avoid. The inauguration was a major event, attended by local elites and crowds of people on 20 February 1911, the centenary of which has been proudly commemorated a few years ago.37