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Great London Sculptures: Memorial to Sir Arthur Sullivan by Sir William Goscombe John in Victoria Embankment Gardens
Visitors to London will often come across many sculptures which often give a fascinating insight into some of London’s characters.
A walk along Victoria Embankment Gardens brings you to sculptor Sir William Goscombe John’s memorial to Sir Arthur Sullivan. The striking memorial features a bronze bust of Sullivan on a high granite pedestal against which a bronze female figure which is draped around the stone.
The grieving ‘Muse’ has often been called the ‘sexiest statue in London’ and leans against the pedestal which has a inscription from The Yeoman Of The Guard. The inscription reads “Is life a boon? If so, it must befall that Death, whene’er he call, must call too soon”. W. S. Gilbert. At the bottom of the pedestal is a mask, sheet music from The Yeoman Of The Guard and a mandolin.
To fully understand the symbols and the importance of the location of the memorial, it is important to know a little more about Sir Arthur Sullivan.
Sir Arthur Sullivan was born in 1842 and was a composer who is best known for his comic opera collaborations with W. S. Gilbert which include H.M.S. Pinafore, The Pirates of Penzance and The Mikado. These operas were incredibly successful and Gilbert, Sullivan and impresario Richard D’Oyly Carte made a fortune from the collaborations. Carte used his profits from the partnership to build the Savoy Hotel which is directly opposite the memorial.
Although Sullivan wrote more serious pieces, his work with Gilbert is considered the forerunner of the type of musical theatre that would dominate the West End for the next hundred years. Sullivan’s death at the age of 58 in 1900 was widely mourned and in 1903 this statue was erected to his memory.
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