Frieze of Parnassus
The Frieze of Parnassus is a large sculpted stone frieze encircling the podium, or base, of the Albert Memorial in London, England. The Albert Memorial was constructed in the 1860s in memory of Prince Albert, the husband of Queen Victoria.
The frieze is named after Mount Parnassus, the favorite resting place in Ancient Greek mythology for the muses. It contains 169 life-size full-length sculptures, a mixture of low-relief and high-relief, of individual composers, architects, poets, painters, and sculptors from history. The depictions of earlier figures necessarily, were imaginary, although many of the figures were based on materials contained in a collection of artworks and drawings gathered for the purpose of ensuring authentic depictions, where this was possible.
The total length of the frieze is approximately 64 metres (210 feet). The frieze was intended to be the 'soul' of the memorial, and the memorial's designer, George Gilbert Scott, stated that he was inspired by the Hémicycle des Beaux Arts by Paul Delaroche. The memorial was not laid out precisely to directions of the compass, however, closely enough that the sides are referred to by direction. Musicians and poets were placed on the south side, with painters on the east side, sculptors on the west side, and architects on the north side.
Henry Hugh Armstead carved the figures on the south and east sides, the painters, musicians, and poets (80 in total), and grouped them by national schools. John Birnie Philip carved the figures on the west and north sides, the sculptors and architects (89 named figures, plus two generic figures), and arranged them in chronological order.
The carving was executed in situ, and was said by Scott to be "perhaps one of the most laborious works of sculpture ever undertaken". The initial contracts, agreed around 1864, had specified that the work was to be completed in four years for £7,781 15s. The eventual cost, however, exceeded this by some £2,000 and the work was not finished until 1872.
Large groups of figures of eminent persons from the past often decorate public buildings and monuments of the later nineteenth century, and some buildings such as the Walhalla temple in Bavaria and the Panthéon in Paris were dedicated to this purpose. Many figures of visual artists decorate the Victoria and Albert Museum close to the Albert Memorial at the other end of the "Albertopolis" complex. A mosaic frieze of more generalised figures from the arts runs round the circular Royal Albert Hall adjacent to the memorial. The Parnassus by Raphael (1511), opposite the philosophers of The School of Athens in the Vatican Raphael Rooms, is an earlier group portrait of great artists.
List of figures
|South||Musicians||AUBER||D. E. F. Auber||Daniel Auber|
|South||Musicians||MEHUL||E. H. Mehul||Étienne Méhul|
|South||Musicians||RAMEAU||J. P. Rameau||Jean-Philippe Rameau|
|South||Musicians||LULLI||J. B. Lulli||Jean-Baptiste Lully|
|South||Musicians||GRETRY||A. E. M. Gretry||André Ernest Modeste Grétry|
|South||Musicians||JOSQUIN-DES-PRES||Jasquin Des Pres||Josquin des Prez|
|South||Musicians||ROSSINI||G. Rossini||Gioachino Rossini|
|South||Musicians||MONTEVERDE||C. Monteverde||Claudio Monteverdi|
|South||Musicians||CARISSIMI||G. Carissimi||Giacomo Carissimi|
|South||Musicians||PALESTRINA||G. P. A. de Palestrina||Giovanni Pierluigi da Palestrina|
|South||Musicians||GUIDO D'AREZZO||Guido||Guido of Arezzo|
|South||Musicians||ST AMBROSE||St Ambrose||Ambrose|
|South||Poets||CORNEILLE||P. Corneille||Pierre Corneille|
|South||Poets||CERVANTES||Cervantes||Miguel de Cervantes|
|South||Poets||CHAUCER||G. Chaucer||Geoffrey Chaucer|
|South||Poets||SHAKESPEARE||W. Shakespeare||William Shakespeare|
|South||Poets||MILTON||J. Milton||John Milton|
|South||Poets||GOETHE||Goethe||Johann Wolfgang von Goethe|
|South||Musicians||BACH||Bach||Johann Sebastian Bach|
|South||Musicians||GLUCK||Gluck||Christoph Willibald Gluck|
|South||Musicians||HANDEL||Handel||George Frideric Handel|
|South||Musicians||MOZART||Mozart||Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart|
|South||Musicians||WEBER||Weber||Carl Maria von Weber|
|South||Musicians||BEETHOVEN||Beethoven||Ludwig van Beethoven|
|South||Musicians||TALLIS||T. Tallis||Thomas Tallis|
|South||Musicians||O. GIBBONS||O. Gibbons||Orlando Gibbons|
|South||Musicians||LAWES||H. Lawes||Henry Lawes|
|South||Musicians||PURCELL||H. Purcell||Henry Purcell|
|South||Musicians||ARNE||T. A. Arne||Thomas Arne|
|South||Musicians||BOYCE||W. Boyce||William Boyce|
|South||Musicians||BISHOP||Sir H. R. Bishop||Henry Bishop|
|East||Painters||TURNER||J. M. W. Turner||J. M. W. Turner|
|East||Painters||WILKIE||Sir D. Wilkie||David Wilkie|
|East||Painters||REYNOLDS||S. J. Reynolds||Joshua Reynolds|
|East||Painters||GAINSBOROUGH||T. Gainsborough||Thomas Gainsborough|
|East||Painters||HOGARTH||W. Hogarth||William Hogarth|
|East||Painters||RUBENS||Rubens||Peter Paul Rubens|
|East||Painters||HOLBEIN||Holbein||Hans Holbein the Younger|
|East||Painters||H. VAN EYCK||H. and J. Van Eyck||Hubert van Eyck|
|East||Painters||J. VAN EYCK||H. and J. Van Eyck||Jan van Eyck|
|East||Painters||STEPHEN OF COLOGNE||S. Lockner||Stefan Lochner|
|East||Painters||GIOTTO||Giotto||Giotto di Bondone|
|East||Painters||FRA ANGELICO||Fra Angelico||Fra Angelico|
|East||Painters||L. DA VINCI||L. Da Vinci||Leonardo da Vinci|
|East||Painters||MICHAEL ANGELO||M. Angelo||Michelangelo|
|East||Painters||P. VERONESE||P. Veronese||Paolo Veronese|
|East||Painters||COREGGIO||Coreggio||Antonio da Correggio|
|East||Painters||AN. CARACCI||A. Caracci||Annibale Carracci|
|East||Painters||L. CARACCI||L. Carraci||Ludovico Carracci|
|East||Painters||MURILLO||Murillo||Bartolomé Esteban Murillo|
|East||Painters||DAVID||J. L. David||Jacques-Louis David|
|East||Painters||VERNET||Vernet||Claude Joseph Vernet|
|East||Painters||INGRES||Ingres||Jean Auguste Dominique Ingres|
|North||Architects||PUGIN||Pugin||Augustus Welby Northmore Pugin|
|North||Architects||SCOTT||Scott||George Gilbert Scott|
|North||Architects||COCKERELL||Cockerell||Samuel Pepys Cockerell|
|North||Architects||CHAMBERS||Chambers||Sir William Chambers|
|North||Architects||INIGO JONES||Inigo Jones||Inigo Jones|
|North||Architects||MANSART||Mansart||Jules Hardouin Mansart|
|North||Architects||VIGNOLA||Vignola||Giacomo Barozzi da Vignola|
|North||Architects||DELORME||Delorme||Philibert de l'Orme|
|North||Architects||SAN GALLO||San Gallo||Giuliano da Sangallo|
|North||Architects||WILLIAM OF WYKEHAM||William of Wykeham||William of Wykeham|
|North||Architects||ALBERTI||Alberti||Leone Battista Alberti|
|North||Architects||GIOTTO||Giotto||Giotto di Bondone|
|North||Architects||ARNOLFO DI LAPO||Arndfo Di Lapo||Arnolfo di Cambio|
|North||Architects||ERWIN VON STEINBACH||Ermin Van Steinbach||Erwin von Steinbach|
|North||Architects||JEHAN DE CHELLES||Johan de Chelles||Jean de Chelles|
|North||Architects||ROB DE COUCY||R. de Courcy||Robert De Coucy|
|North||Architects||WILLIAM OF SENS||William of Sens||William of Sens|
|North||Architects||WILLIAM THE ENGLISHMAN||William the Englishman||William the Englishman|
|North||Architects||ABBE SUGER||Abbe Suger||Abbot Suger|
|North||Architects||ANTHEMIUS||Anthemius||Anthemius of Tralles|
|North||Architects||APOLLODORUS||Appollodonus||Apollodorus of Damascus|
|North||Architects||THEODORUS||Theodorus||Theodorus of Samos|
|North||Architects||HIRAM ||Hiram||Hiram Abiff|
|West||Sculptors||CHARES||Chanes||Chares of Lindos|
|West||Sculptors||GIULIANO DI RAVENNA||Giuliano de Ravenna||no article|
|West||Sculptors||NICCOLA PISANO||Niccola Pisano||Nicola Pisano|
|West||Sculptors||TORELL||W. Tonel||William Torell|
|West||Sculptors||LUCA DELLA ROBBIA||Luca Deklla Robbia||Luca della Robbia|
|West||Sculptors||WILLIAM OF IRELAND||William of Ireland||William of Ireland|
|West||Sculptors||VERROCCHIO||Verrocchio||Andrea del Verrocchio|
|West||Sculptors||MICHAEL ANGELO||Michael Angelo||Michelangelo|
|West||Sculptors||GIAN DI BOLOGNA||Gian Di Balogna||Giambologna|
|West||Sculptors||VISCHER||Vischer||Peter Vischer the Elder|
|West||Sculptors||BACCIO D'AGNOLO||Baccio D'agnelo||Baccio D'Agnolo|
|West||Sculptors||BERNINI||Bernini||Gian Lorenzo Bernini|
|West||Sculptors||CIBBER||Cibber||Caius Gabriel Cibber|
|West||Sculptors||PUGET||Puget||Pierre Paul Puget|
|West||Sculptors||BIRD||F. Bird||Francis Bird|
|West||Sculptors||DAVID (ANGERS)||David D'Angers||Pierre Jean David|
Selection, arrangement, and omissions
The selection of figures reflects contemporary thinking, although even by the taste of the 1860s it seems odd to omit Schubert, then considered rather lightweight, whilst including Daniel Auber and Grétry.
Among the painters, a classical tradition predominates to the extent that there is no hint of Mannerism in the sixteenth century and Giulio Romano is omitted, nor is there any reference to Rococo taste, where a modern list would include Antoine Watteau and François Boucher. The painters represented in the frieze reflect to some extent, Albert's own taste for the "Primitives" of the late Middle Ages, although Duccio is absent. Botticelli and Vermeer were yet to be rediscovered, and El Greco, Caravaggio, and Goya, who would all figure in a modern canon, mostly were regarded with suspicion.
No English poet after John Milton was featured. Among the architects, the figure of Nitocris, the only figure representing a woman on the frieze, may have been selected because it was at one time thought that she was the pharaoh responsible for the pyramid now credited to Menkaura.
Other figures commemorated elsewhere on the Albert Memorial, on the canopy mosaics, but not on the frieze, are Apelles (painting), King Solomon (architecture) and King David (poetry). The preferred south side of the memorial, being the direction in which Albert's statue faces, is populated by poets and musicians, with poets at the centre in accordance with the Victorian concept of poetry as the highest of the arts.
The arrangement of the other groups also reflects this Victorian thinking, with the fine arts of the sculptors and painters on the east and west sides, joining a spiritual side on the south (the poets and musicians) and a material side on the north (the architects). At least three of the sides also have a central, pre-eminent figure seated on a throne, with Homer for the poets, Raphael for the painters, and Michelangelo for the sculptors.
Scott originally intended the last of the architects depicted in full to be himself, however, after all the other characters had been chosen, he realised he'd forgotten Pugin, the great genius of the Victorian Gothic Revival. So Scott replaced his own statue with Pugin's, and then placed himself as a relief head, looking over Pugin's shoulder.
Authenticity and details
Authentic points of detail and historical accuracy include Phidias being depicted as bald, the phorminx (lyre) being held by the bard Homer, William Hogarth's dog, Paolo Veronese's hand resting on a greyhound, Daniel Auber's right arm in a sling, the building models held by William of Wykeham and Jean de Chelles, the model of Trajan's Column held by Apollodorus of Damascus, the object held by Hiram, the sculptures held by Dibutades and Phidias, Ghiberti leaning on a panel, the sculptures being held by Donatello and Michelangelo, and the statue being admired by the group to the right of Cellini.
Authentic period detail also is seen in much of the clothing, the details of facial hair, furniture, and accessories, including scrolls, books, swords, and palettes. The figures are posed, either in isolation or in groups, with some figures facing each other in poses of admiration or engaged deeply in conversation.
- 'Albert Memorial: The memorial', Survey of London: volume 38: South Kensington Museums Area (1975), pp. 159-176: "[The frieze's] affinity to Delaroche's Hémicycle des Beaux Arts in the École des Beaux Arts was avowed by Scott himself." (date accessed: 18 May 2008)
- Due to the geometry and layout of the memorial, there is some overlap between the sides for the different groups of figures. The north–south–west–east convention used here is that used in the Survey of London: volume 38 – South Kensington Museums Area (1975, General Editor F. H. W. Sheppard), in which two articles about the memorial appeared: , .
- The four basic groups were identified using the official history. The further separation of the poets and musicians was done on the basis of an essay by John Lucas Tupper, titled Henry Hugh Armstead, concerning the career of the sculptor who carved this part of the frieze. The essay was published first in The Portfolio, and then in English Artists of the Present Day. Essays by J. Beavington Atkinson, Sidney Colvin, F. G. Stephens, Tom Taylor, and John L. Tupper. London: Seeley, Jackson, and Halliday, 1872, 61-66. It has been republished here .
- The inscriptions were transcribed from a set of four photographs from May 2008: South face, East face, North face, West face.
- The National Memorial to His Royal Highness the Prince Consort, pp. 65–90, published by John Murray in 1873. This official list is mentioned here  ("The subjects are listed in the official history."), and the list used here was obtained from here , although that source contains several presumed transcription errors.
- This is a combined entry in the official history for two of the figures.
- Presumed transcription error.
- This entry may refer to "Hermodorus of Salamis", said by some sources to be the architect of the second century B.C. Temple of Jupiter Stator.
- The name "Hiram" is inscribed twice on the memorial, either side of the corner point on the frieze where the figure is located.
- This entry may refer both to the biblical king of Tyre, Hiram I and his architect, Hiram Abiff.
- The first two figures in the sculptors group are nameless representations of an Egyptian and an Assyrian.
- This entry could refer to "Giuliano Argentario" (also known as "Iulianus Argentarius"), one of those involved in the financing and construction of the Basilica of San Vitale in Ravenna, Italy.
- TV programme: "Pugin, God Of Gothic", Channel 4 Television, UK
- One of Veronese's works is titled Boy with a Greyhound
- History of the design and construction of the podium figures
- Critical commentary and evaluation of the depictions of the poets, musicians and painters