Sculpture Victorious at Tate Britain explores a period of unparalleled innovation in British history, where ground-breaking new materials and methods created a cutting edge environment for Victorian sculptors. We take a closer look at image of Queen Victoria, immortalised in marble by the exceptionally inventive English sculptor and ornamental designer, Sir Alfred Gilbert

Marble sculpture of Queen Victoria by Alfred Gilbert © Army and Navy Club London
Alfred Gilbert
Queen Victoria 1887-1889

Queen Victoria was the subject of more sculpture than any previous monarch. From coinage to marble busts, her image became a familiar part of Victorian life, representing her as the figurehead of nation and empire. Most leading sculptors of the age, including Francis Chantrey and Alfred Gilbert, attempted to capture the queen’s likeness and her significance in sculpted portraiture.

Gilbert’s bust of Queen Victoria was commissioned by the Army and Navy Club on Pall Mall, London, to mark the 50th year of her reign. Gilbert seems not to have produced this bust from life, but instead worked from photographs.

Gilbert was one of the foremost sculptors of the day, but also temperamental. The bust originally had a metal crown, but Gilbert regretted the decision and removed it, promising instead to supply a marble one. He never delivered the replacement and the bust remains uncrowned.

Sculpture Victorious is on display at Tate Britain until 25 May 2015

This is the second article in our Close up series on artworks on display in our Sculpture Victorious exhibition