Saturday, 14 April 2018

Fascinating memorial to Lord Elgin (James Bruce) at St. Paul Cathedral, Kolkata

Memorial to Lord Elgin  India Bas-relief,Kolkatgettyimages.com
Above image: India, bas-relief on monument to James Bruce, 8th Earl of Elgin (1811-1863), Viceroy of India, in Kolkata' St. Paul Cathedral, India, illustration from The Illustrated London News, volume LV, December 4, 1869.  George Gilbert Scott (later Sir George Gilbert Scott, 1811-1878) as designer, and John Birnie Philip (1824-1875) as craftsman .................................

Memorial to Lord Elgin, St. Paul cathedral Kilkata:

James Bruce, Eighth Earl of Elgin (Lord Elgin) (1811-1863)'s Viceroyship in India was  a short one - 1862 to 1863. The British Raj decided to raise a monument of exceptional beauty and workmanship befitting his contribution to the British Empire. Prior to India,  he worked in Canada, West Indies and China.   St. Paul's Cathedral Church  with Anglican background in Kolkata, West Bengal, India is a popular one and is best known for its fine Gothic architecture. It is the seat of the Diocese of Calcutta.  Completed in 1847 it is said to be the largest cathedral in Kolkata and the first Episcopal Church in Asia. Yet another credit this cathedral has is  it was also the first one built in the overseas territory of the British Empire. After 1934 earthquake, this historical church was reconstructed  with Indo-Gothic design.
 Kolkata Memorial. Lord Elgin The Victorian Web
Above image: Lord Elgin's portrait in the monument at St. Paul Cathedral, Kolkata...... 

There are  several unique  monuments in the 
vestibule or narthex of St Paul's Cathedral, Kolkata,. These monuments were the results  of the combined work of two talented two English people whose coordination and collaboration played a key role in the success of these eye-catching monuments. George Gilbert Scott (later Sir George Gilbert Scott, 1811-1878) as designer, and
St. Paul Cathedral Kolkata,Wikipedia
John Birnie Philip (1824-1875) as craftsman put in their exceptional talents and hard work in this painstaking work. Both monuments dedicated to Lord Elgin and  Col Richard Baird Smith take the form of a tomb-chest or cenotaph with an inlaid brass cross and a Gothic canopy with a marble portrait at the top. Those of Smith's completed first in1869, the ones dedicated to Elgin  were completed two years later.   Models of its four bronze bas-reliefs were displayed at the Royal Academy in that year.  It carries the Elgin motto "Fuimus" ("We Have Been" — meaning something like, "We Have Left our Mark").
  

The monuments  at the cathedral also speak  of the  versatile skills of its craftsman who paid minute attention to even small details in these carvings. They exhibit Philip's versatility in  wood, stone-carving and metalwork and his coworker Scott valued his ingenuity and his matching capability. When Philips set out on his own, his first commission was related to the  funerary and church monuments  and, he  was involved in a great deal of work for Scott. Further, he as a sculptors was deeply involved in that grand enterprise in Kensington Gardens.

The Bas-Reliefs - representing Jamaica Canada China India are exceptionally good and they appeared in a feature on the memorial in an Illustrated London News issue of 1869.

The monument to Col. Smith features sculptures in marble, whereas, the Elgin monument features four matching bronze bas-reliefs in  quatrefoils, in an elaborate studded surround. An interesting feature is Each bas-relief represents one of the different places in which Lord Elgin distinguished himself in the high office, creating an ambiance relevant  to that particular country. 

Kolkata cathedral. Jamaica, Bas relief.gettyimages.com
Above image: Jamaica, bas-relief on monument to James Bruce, 8th Earl of Elgin (1811-1863), Viceroy of India, in Kolkata Cathedral, India,

Kolkata cathedral. Canada bas-relief gettyimages.com
 Above image: Canada, bas-relief on monument to James Bruce, 8th Earl of Elgin (1811-1863), Viceroy of India, in Kolkata Cathedral, India, illustration from The Illustrated London News, volume LV, December 4, 1869
Elgin monuments, Kolkata cathedral. eBay


 Jamaica shows a sugar-cane plantation, with a planter talking to his workers, while a young boy holds his horse. In the background, a woman carries a jug on her head. 

Canada shows a settler felling trees, with a Canadian Indian family to the left, and eskimos to the right. China is the only one to feature Elgin, who is evidently negotiating with a mandarin, with their respective men on each side, and a section of the Great Wall of China in the background. 

China -A Chinese man kneels on the right, unfurling the flag of China (according to Cotton 595) at their feet. 

India, shows a scene in an army camp, with a tent and an elephant in the background, sepoys at ease in the foreground, and Indians standing to the left and in the middle, in their several different forms of attire.

All these monuments exhibit nice  texture, colour and ornament, nice metalwork,  the incorporation of portraits, and reliefs referring to four geographical continents or territories.  The combined work of Scott and Philps in the monuments to Smith and Elgin at St. John's Cathedral, Kolkata is to be seen to be appreciated, according to many critics.

The portrait in marble of James Bruce, Eighth Earl of Elgin in the apex of the lower arch  is rather small considering the size of the whole piece, However, some critics appreciate its excellent likeness (see alongside). 

Lord Elgin unexpectedly  had  died in India in a remote place less than two years  after his new  and challenging assignment  as the Viceroy of India. No sooner had he landed in India than he  began to chalk out his program to face the pressing problems against the empire.   He was in the process of getting to know the new territories personally and  was touring selected areas.  While on his way  to Peshawar with his party in the North-West Frontier (now in Pakistan), the arduous journey, covering different difficult terrains became too much for him, considering his age and health condition.  He  suffered a hear attack while crossing a hanging bridge across the river and died in 1863 AD at the military station of Dharamshala. He was buried in the graveyard of St John in the Wilderness Church at MacLeodganj, surmounted by an impressive Gothic structure of its own. 

Far away from his native land, it was God's edit that he had to take  an eternal sleep in the midst of the  serene wooded area  overlooking from its lofty height the vast expanse of the hill and plain of these mighty provinces — a fitting burial beneath the snow-clad Himalayan range, for a man who held the highest office in the British Empire with distinction. At this historical church the  stained-glass windows were donated by Lady Elgin  in memory of her beloved husband.

http://thelandofwanderlust.com/st-johns-in-the-wilderness-mcleod-ganj-himachal-pradesh/

http://www.victorianweb.org/sculpture/philip/16.html