Albert Memorial

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The Albert Memorial is situated in Kensington Gardens, London, England, directly to the north of the Royal Albert Hall.

It was commissioned by Queen Victoria in memory of her beloved husband, Prince Albert of Saxe-Coburg-Gotha who died of typhoid in 1861, and designed by Sir George Gilbert Scott in the Gothic revival style.

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"America" group, Albert Memorial. Sculptor: John Bell

Opened in 1872, with the statue of Albert ceremonially "seated" in 1875, the memorial consists of an ornate pavilion containing a statue of Prince Albert facing south. This is surrounded by the elaborate sculptural Frieze of Parnassus, which depicts 169 individual composers, architects, poets, painters, and sculptors. There are two allegorical sculpture programs: four groups depicting Victorian industrial arts and sciences (agriculture, commerce, engineering and manufacturing), and four more groups representing Europe, Asia, Africa and The Americas at the four corners, each continent-group including several ethnographic figures and a large animal. (A camel for Africa, a buffalo for the Americas, an elephant for Asia and a bull for Europe.) The sculptor Henry Hugh Armstead coordinated this massive effort among several arists of the Royal Academy, including Hamo Thornycroft.

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"Asia" group, Albert Memorial.
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"Africa" group, Albert Memorial.

The memorial's design and the popularity of the Prince Consort led to several other "Albert Memorials" based on the original in Hyde Park, most notably in the central square of Manchester in front of the town hall, in "Albert Square".

By the late 1990s the Memorial had fallen into a state of some decay. A thorough restoration was carried out which included cleaning, repainting and re-gilding the entire monument as well as carrying out structural repairs. In the process the cross on top of the monument, which had been put on sideways during an earlier restoration attempt, was returned to its correct position. Some of the restoration, including repairs to damaged friezes, was of limited success.

The centrepiece of the Memorial is a seated figure of Prince Albert. Following restoration, this is now covered in gold leaf. For eighty years the statue had been covered in black paint. Various theories had existed that it was deliberately blackened during World War I to prevent it becoming a target for Zeppelin bombing raids or domestic anti-German sentiment. However, English Heritage's research prior to the restoration suggests that the black coating predates 1914 and may have been a response to atmospheric pollution that had destroyed the original gold leaf surface.

Further restoration work, including repainting the steps surrounding the memorial, commenced in the summer of 2006. For the duration of that work, there is no public access within the ornate surrounding fence.

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Albert Memorial

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