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Statue of Isambard Kingdom Brunel (1877)
Temple Place, Victoria Embankment, London, UK
Statue of Isambard Kingdom Brunel (1877)
associated engineer
Isambard Kingdom Brunel
date  November 1860, erected 1877
era  Victorian  |  category  Monument to Engineer  |  reference  TQ307808
photo  Jane Joyce
Multi-talented civil engineer Isambard Kingdom Brunel died at home in Westminster on 15th September 1859, aged 53. The monument standing on a plinth at the west end of Temple Place, on Londonís Victoria Embankment, is believed to be the earliest statue of Brunel erected in Britain.
In November 1860, a little more than a year after Isambard Kingdom Brunelís death, Pietro Carlo Giovanni Batista Marochetti (1805-67, Baron Marochetti of Sardinia) was commissioned to make a statue of him. Marochetti was Queen Victoriaís favourite sculptor and had made a number of royal monuments including statues of Richard I, Edward the Black Prince, Prince Albert and Victoria herself.
Marochettiís bronze of Brunel was one of a trio of memorials to engineers he created in the 1860s. The other two were Robert Stephenson (1803-59) and Joseph Locke (1805-60), and all three were intended for the churchyard of St Margaretís in Westminster. However, this plan was rejected and a site for Brunel was not selected until the following decade.
In 1870, Brunelís son, barrister Isambard Brunel (1837-1902), published a biography of his father. In it, he records that a "few weeks" after Brunelís death, "a meeting of his friends was held, when it was determined to raise some memorial to him. A statue was made by the late Baron Marochetti, and a site for it promised by the First Commissioner of Works; but it has not yet been erected".
In 1877, the bronze was erected in its present location on Victoria Embankment. Brunel wears a frock coat over waistcoat, shirt and trousers and is bareheaded, without his usual stovepipe hat and cigar. He stands at ease, left leg bent and slightly forward, with a compass or other drawing instrument in his hands. His gaze passes over the road traffic to the River Thames, his right eyebrow raised.
The monument stands on a tall square pedestal engraved simply, "Isambard Kingdom Brunel. Civil Engineer. Born 1806. Died 1859". Adjoining the rear of the pedestal, a large plinth-like structure rises behind the bronze and extends either side. Pedestal and plinth are of Portland Stone and were designed by architect R. Norman Shaw (1831-1912), who also designed the stained glass window commemorating Brunel in Westminster Abbey.
In February 1958, the statue and its supporting structure were Grade II listed. Perhaps the figure of Brunel, who was not a tall man, was placed high on a pedestal so the Victorians could look up to their hero?
Sculptor: Pietro Carlo Giovanni Batista Marochetti
Research: ECPK
bibliography
"The Lost Works of Isambard Kingdom Brunel" by John Christopher, Amberley Publishing Limited, 2011
"Londonís Statues and Monuments" by Peter Matthews, Bloomsbury Publishing, London, 2012
www.architecture.com
www.gracesguide.co.uk
www.historicengland.org.uk
www.royalcollection.org.uk
www.victorianweb.org
reference sources   IKB
Location

Statue of Isambard Kingdom Brunel (1877)