Boadicea urging the Britons to avenge her outraged daughters by S. Nicholson Babb. Source of image: The Studio (1902). [Click on this image and those below to enlarge them.] Formatting and text by George P. Landow. You may use these images without prior permission for any scholarly or educational purpose as long as you (1) credit the University of Toronto and the Internet Archiveand (2) link your document to this URL in a web document or cite the Victorian Web in a print one.

W. S. S., the author of The Studio article, pointed out that Babb's bas relief won the gold medal and scholarship despite having been assigned an “ill-chosen” subject that “prevents the students from doing justice to themselves” (40). The critic explains that

the competitors for the gold medal in sculpture are expected, in a low-relief panel, to make it decoratively real! A Donatello might succeed in such a task, though even the Donatello of old, in some of his bronze reliefs representing incidents from the life of St. Anthony of Padua, shows us clearly that it is perilous to attempt to reconcile the limitations of flat sculpture with a free display of pictorial perspective. Nothing is more likely to scatter the decorative effect, breaking up the ordered patterning and rhythm of the light and shade. The Greeks, fully conscious of this fact, and knowing that such decorative sculpture should not make a hole in a wall, remained true to the flat convention which they found most effective in their reliefs; and Donatello, also, is at his best in such relief-work as The Entombment, where he makes his perspective strictly subservient to the same convention. Then, as to the students of the Academy, some among them, like Mr. Trice, are not only aware that their subject is a very dangerous one, but they do all in their power to get rid of its pictorial perils. The relief by Mr. Trice . . . has considerable dignity; the reticence of its design is vigorously decorative, though a little "fussy" here and there; it is a pity that Boadicea is too tall to be in scale with the size of the chariot and the horses.

In striking contrast to this work is the relief by Mr. Babb, the gold-medallist, who, quite frankly, in a bold, dramatic style, makes the freest use of perspective, and not only models a scenic picture in relief, but, like several other competitors, he gives some pictorial incidents which are not justified by a correct reading of the history of Boadicea. In the life of this widow-queen there are two vivid pictures, one drawn by Dion Cassius, the other by Tacitus. The first picture represents Boadicea not long after her two daughters have been out- raged, and she herself scourged. A tall and majestic woman, with light hair falling thickly below her waist, she is seen — not in a chariot, as represented by Mr. Babb — but, "after the manner of the Romans," on a throne or tribune of turf; and fiercely, in a hoarse voice, she calls on her people to revolt against the tyranny of the Romans. She wears a heavy gold torque about her neck; her tunic is of several colours, like a Scotch plaid; over it, fastened by a fibula or brooch, is a thick robe of coarse stuff; and she holds in her hand a spear, so that she may look terrible. The picture by Tacitus represents the heroine at a later period in her career, after much fierce butchery and the sacking of Camulodunon and London, and the municipal town of Verulam. It is just before the last battle with the Romans, and Boadicea, drawn in a chariot with her two daughters before her, drives through her army, and excites the greatest enthusiasm by her words. This is the only mention made of a chariot, and so much time has elapsed since the outrage that the princesses are not weeping and draggled with the misery of their shame. If many of the students had borne this fact in mind, their reliefs would have been more historical and very much less pictorial and tearful in sentiment. [40-41]

References

Memorial: M982.” Maritime Memorials: Commemorating Seafarers and Victimes of Maritime Disasters Web. 26 September 2011.


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