The Black Prince and the Eight Lamp Holders
Thomas Brock | Alfred Drury
Article by: Georgina Collins - First Published: 13 February 2011
Raised above the level of the crowds, the Black Prince (Edward the Black Prince, 1330 - 1376) looms over the viewer with his dark, intimidating appearance. Mounted on horseback, on a plinth decorated with depictions of the Prince in battle, the overwhelming impression is that of a strong, military leader.
The Black Prince was chosen to adorn City Square after the city fathers decided to create an open civic space to commemorate Leeds' elevation to city status in 1893. He was seen as a symbol of chivalry, good government, patronage of the arts and education, encouragement of industry, and democratic values.
His victories over the French, such as at Crécy and Poitiers, made the Black Prince a popular figure during his lifetime, and in 1348 he became the first Knight of the Garter.
The statue, by Thomas Brock, was unveiled on 16th September 1903.
The Prince originally stood within a circular enclosure of balustrades, with four entrances flanked by bronze female figures holding lamps. City Square was re-designed in the 1960's, and the balustrade was removed, with the eight figures, by Alfred Drury, being repositioned along the perimeter of the square, and given globe lights instead of lamps.
These life-size semi-draped female figures, four depicting morning and four representing evening, form a crescent around the pedestrian area. Morning presents a handful of roses, wearing drapery which swirls out from her in a morning breeze; Evening stretches herself drowsily, her eyes already shut.
The arrangement of the eight figures suggests City Square as an oasis of relaxation and reflection. We can sit and ponder on the possibilities of a fresh, sweetly-scented morning; or meditate on a warm, soothing evening with nothing more to do than sit and rest one's weary limbs.
The figures of 'Morning' suggest a day of purpose and fulfilment, while 'Evening' invites one to lay by a warm fire and forget about the things to be done. In the middle of this arc of figures, the Black Prince symbolises strength, leadership and chivalry as a focus point for the square, and he is by far the largest of the figures in the square.
The contrast between the feminine gracefulness and the flowing lines of the eight lamp holders, and the brooding masculinity of the Prince, perfectly brings to one's attention the different qualities of the characters - Morning, Evening, and the Black Prince.
These sculptures are both decorative and inspiring - the majestic Prince alongside the graceful representations of morning and evening, symbolise qualities and principles it is difficult not to feel strongly about, whatever our opinion of them. The Prince and his lamp holders reassure one that people are still protecting these ideas.
One of the purposes of art has been to inspire emotions in the viewer. There can be no doubt of the Prince and his lamp holders' capacity to invoke a range of feelings, whether that be pride in a city, a feeling of calm, a sense of purposefulness, or optimism for the future. Situated in a busy area of the city, the unexpected presence of the sculptures enhances their effectiveness. A sudden invitation to consider the big ideas of democracy, purposefulness, and a balance with our own lives, can take one by surprise. One is reminded that it is good to take the time to reflect, however busy our lives may be.
Sir Thomas Brock
Sir Thomas Brock KCB RA (March 1, 1847 - August 22, 1922)
Brock was born in Worcester, attended the School of Design in Worcester and then undertook an apprenticeship in modelling at the Worcester Royal Porcelain Works. In 1866 he became a pupil of the sculptor John Henry Foley. He married in 1869, and had 8 children. After Foley's death in 1874, Brock completed some of his commissions.
He first came to prominence when he was asked to complete the statue of Prince Albert for the Albert Memorial. In 1901 Brock was awarded the colossal equestrian statue of Edward the Black Prince, set up in Leeds City Square, and was also given perhaps his most significant commission, the vast multi-figure Imperial Memorial to Queen Victoria in front of Buckingham Palace. According to legend, at the unveiling in May 1911, George V was so moved by the excellence of the memorial that he called for a sword and knighted Brock on the spot.
His group The Moment of Peril (now in the Tate Gallery) was followed by The Genius of Poetry, at the Carlsberg Brewery, in Copenhagen, Eve, and other ideal works that mark his development. Other works include busts, such as those of Lord Leighton and Queen Victoria, statues, such as Sir Richard Owen and Henry Philpott, bishop of Worcester, and sepulchral monuments such as Lord Leighton in St Pauls Cathedral, a work of singular significance, refinement and beauty.
Brock was elected an associate of the Royal Academy in 1883 and full member in 1891.
(Edward) Alfred Briscoe Drury, (1856 - 1944) was an English architectural sculptor and figure in the New Sculpture movement.
Born in London, Drury studied under Edouard Lanteri and Jules Dalou, with whom he worked between 1881 and 1885, and then became assistant to Joseph Boehm.
Drury is best represented at the Victoria and Albert Museum, where he contributed the figure of Prince Albert immediately above the main entrance, nine lunettes with Drury's characteristic allegorical girls each bearing a portion of the museum's motto, allegorical figures of Inspiration and Knowledge, and Queen Victoria above it all, carrying a staff and flanked by a knight and angel. (The spandrel figures of Truth and Beauty are by George Frampton.)
COMMENT BY: John Sankey PhD (Leeds) - Submitted: 30 August 2014
Your excellent article on the Black Prince and its sculptor Sir Thomas Brock has some minor errors which you may wish to correct.
- The statue was commissioned in 1896 (not 1901).
- Brock really was knighted in May 1911, so the words 'according to legend' should be omitted.
- A Moment of Peril is in the garden of Leighton House, Kensington (not the Tate).
John Sankey PhD (Leeds)
EDITOR RESPONSE BY: Dave Roberts
Thank you for your comment on the Black Prince article:
Regarding 'Sir Thomas Brock'. I think the author is describing how the knighthood took place - not that his title is in any way ambiguous or contested.
The publication date of the article can be seen close to the header. I understand the location of 'A Moment of Peril' was correctly described by the writer at that time.
I would be grateful if you can produce evidence or name your source of the commissioning date for the Black Prince statue.
Try these links to search the following topics:
Please note: All fields are required