Queen and Philip immortalised in Albert Hall – but critics torn over ‘dull’ statues

Queen greets General Sir Nick Carter at Windsor Castle

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The introduction of the statues in niches that have not been occupied since it first opened in 1871. It comes as part of the South Kensington concert hall’s 150th-anniversary celebrations. They will be joined by sculptures of Queen Victoria and Prince Albert, also appearing in statue niches on the concert hall’s facade.

Alastair Sooke, chief art critic at The Telegraph, said: “Royal portraiture tends to fall into two camps – the routine and dull and the distorted and controversial.

“The maquettes for four new life-size sculptures to be unveiled at the Royal Albert Hall next summer appear to belong to the former.”

The public sculpture is only the second to portray Prince Philip and will commemorate him alongside his 19th-century predecessor as consort.

The only other prominent public statue honouring the Duke of Edinburgh is a sculpture installed alongside that of the Queen by the West Door of Canterbury Cathedral in 2015.

The planned sculpture at the Royal Albert Hall comes after public calls for the Duke to be suitably commemorated following his death in April at the age of 99.

Thousands of people had signed a petition for a “prominent statue of the Duke in London”.

The artworks of the Queen and Philip, depicting them in the mid-1960s, pay tribute to the couple’s shared lifetime of service, and the late Duke’s “faithful devotion” to his wife – as he gazes towards her.

Ian McCulloch, president of the Royal Albert Hall, told PA: “The hall is in our temporary stewardship, and it’s our duty to ensure it is here to inspire generations to come.”

Speaking of why the statues were chosen for the façade, he said: “As well as launching artistic and engagement programmes as part of our 150th-anniversary celebrations, we wanted to commemorate the milestone with something tangible, and these sculptures will finally complete the facade of our glorious Grade I-listed building.”

Thanking the work that went into the pieces, he added: “This anniversary gives us the opportunity to recognise the enduring support of our Royal patrons, and leave a legacy of public art of a high quality and craftsmanship.”

Prince Philip, the nation’s longest-serving consort, died aged 99 in April and the Queen, who is set to mark her Platinum Jubilee in 2022, has been under doctors’ orders to rest for nearly a month and has also sprained her back.

The Royal Albert Hall was conceived by Albert – the Prince Consort – and opened by Queen Victoria – who named it in memory of her late husband.

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Maquettes of the sculptures – two Queens and their beloved consorts – arrived at the venue this week, ahead of the creation of the full-size pieces.

Poppy Field, who designed the Queen and Philip’s statues, took inspiration from Dorothy Wilding’s portraits of the couple ahead of their wedding.

She said of the inspiration: “One of Dorothy Wilding’s particularly poignant July 1947 photographs captures Prince Philip looking over to the Queen, who looks directly out to the viewer.”

She added: “My goal is to visually connect the statues of the Queen and Prince Philip with depictions of Queen Victoria and Prince Albert, as well as represent something unique in each statue that would together embody the romantic appeal of their royal marriage.”

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