Wednesday, June 10, 2009

Landseer's Iconic Lions


The four bronze lions that flank Nelson's Column in Trafalgar Square are a London icon. But no matter how familiar you think you might be with the sights of this city, nothing prepares you for their size when you finally see them in person. They are several times lifesize! The lions, strongly symbolic of British power in Imperial times, were cast in 1867 from a sculpture by Sir Edwin Landseer, the 'most celebrated animal artist of the reign of Queen Victoria,' as I once heard him described. He was criticised for giving animals eyes that were too expressive, they had a human quality that was uncomfortable to the 19th century mind; it is also said he had never seen a lion when he sculpted the original, but used his dog and cat as references! The metal of which these statues are cast is said to be the melted-down cannons of the destroyed French fleet, captured in 1805. The photograph was not difficult, but a composition in which there were no intrusive elements was; here one of the four shares the frame with the decorated base of Nelson's Column, but at least there are no buildings, people (or pigeons) in the shot. Sharpness and colour were enhanced, the latter considerably to put some hue into a watery winter sky. December, 2006; Fuji FinepPix S5600, automatic. Image by Mike.

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