It’s a perilous time to be a statue. Not that it has ever been a particularly secure occupation, exposed as statues are to the elements, bird droppings and political winds.
Just ask Queen Victoria, whose rounded frame perches atop hundreds of plinths across the Commonwealth, with an air of solemn, severe solidity. But in 1963 in Quebec, members of a separatist paramilitary group stuck dynamite under the dress of her local statue. It exploded with a force so great that her head was found 100 yards away.
Today, the head is on display in a museum, with her body preserved in a room some miles away. The art historian Vincent Giguère said that “the fact it’s damaged is what makes it so important.”
There’s another reason to conserve the beheaded Victoria. Statues of women, standing alone and demanding attention in a public space, are extremely rare.
To be made a statue, a woman had to be a naked muse, royalty or the mother of God. Or occasionally, an icon of war, justice or virtue: Boadicea in her chariot in London, the Statue of Liberty in New York.
Still, of 925 public statues in Britain, only 158 are women standing on their own. Of those, 110 are allegorical or mythical, and 29 are of Queen Victoria.
Julia Baird, The New York Times. September 4, 2017. Adaptado.