Home » London Public Art » Great London Sculptures: The Burghers of Calais by Auguste Rodin in Victoria Tower Gardens

Great London Sculptures: The Burghers of Calais by Auguste Rodin in Victoria Tower Gardens

© 2019 Visiting London Guide.com – Photograph by Alan Kean

Visitors to the Houses of Parliament, often ignore the Victoria Tower Gardens nearby. The gardens offer some wonderful riverfront views and have pieces of art to admire. One of the largest and most prestigious is The Burghers of Calais, by French sculptor, Auguste Rodin.

© 2019 Visiting London Guide.com – Photograph by Alan Kean

Appropriately, considering it is within the shadow of the Houses of Parliament it represents the idea of freedom from oppression. The sculpture is based on an incident during the Hundred Years War, Calais had been surrounded for a year by English soldiers under King Edward III when in 1347, six leading citizens of Calais, the Burghers, offered to die if Edward spared the rest of the town’s people.

© 2019 Visiting London Guide.com – Photograph by Alan Kean

It was this moment of heroic self-sacrifice that Rodin captures in his sculpture. In the end, an intervention by Edward’s wife, Queen Philippa pleaded on the Burghers behalf and they and the people of Calais were allowed to leave.

© 2019 Visiting London Guide.com – Photograph by Alan Kean

Rodin was commissioned to undertake this work of art in the 1880s and his original sculpture was completed in 1889 and took pride of place outside Calais town hall. Rodin later made a number of casts, this one was bought by the National Art Collection Fund in 1911 and the artist himself came to London to give advice on where the sculpture should be erected.

© 2019 Visiting London Guide.com – Photograph by Alan Kean

This particular sculpture was cast in 1908, installed in 1914 and unveiled in 1915. Over the last century, the sculpture is considered to be one of Rodin greatest works and further casts have been installed in museums and art galleries all over the world.

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