St George Slaying the Dragon. William Silver Frith, to designs by Walter Crane c.1891 (the Law Courts were officially opened in July 1891). Architectural sculpture in terracotta over the entrance porch of the Victoria Law Courts, Corporation Street, Birmingham. See here for the way the various pieces fit together. This is the scene immediately below Harry Bates's seated statue of Queen Victoria. It is very striking and graphic: the saint's expression is fierce, his raised sword-arm is notably muscular and the dragon's powerful claws grip the ledge of the arch even as the sword is plunged deep into its mouth. Photographs and text by Jacqueline Banerjee. You may use these images without prior permission for any scholarly or educational purpose as long as you (1) credit the photographer and (2) link your document to this URL in a web document or cite it in a print one.]

There are also four splendid figures in the spandrels on either side of the arch, as well. All these are by Frith, too, to Crane's designs. They are personifications of "Patience, Mercy, Truth and Temperance, all attributes of Justice" ("Victoria Law Courts"). Though hard to read through the protective netting, the qualities are named on scrolls in the background. All four figures are striking examples of New Sculpture fluency, with a certain Art Nouveau dreaminess, though Patience (on the right) is less dreamy than she looks at first: she is straining to grip the leash of a fierce hound, and holding it in check. Truth's dreaminess makes a bigger contrast with the vigorous St George above.

Mercy by W F
Frith

The personification of Mercy extending her hand, with an offering.

Below these two figures are another two, also female. Mercy (on the lower left) also has her hand outstretched, this time in offering, and Temperance (on the lower right), holds a bowl. Note that most if not all of the other sculptural work here, which includes putti, dolphins, floral and other kinds of patterning, is by William Aumonier (Dungavell 75). This rich feast of fine carving must have contributed greatly to the warm reception given to the new Law Courts (see Foster 17).

Related Material

Sources

Dungavell, Ian. "Victoria Law Courts." Birmingham. Pevsner Architectural Guides. New Haven & London: Yale University Press, 2005. 74-76. Print.

Foster, Andy. Birmingham. Pevsner Architectural Guides. New Haven & London: Yale University Press, 2005. Print.

"Victoria Law Courts." National Recording Project. PMSA (Public Monuments and Sculpture Association) Database. Web. 7 April 2013.


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