Wellington Monument (Achille's Statue), London

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The Wellington Monument is a statue of Achilles erected as a memorial to Arthur Wellesley, the first duke of Wellington, and his victories in the Peninsular War and the latter stages of the Napoleonic Wars. It is sited at the south-western end of Park Lane in London, and was inaugurated on 18 June 1822. Its total height, including the sculpture, base and the mound on which it stands, is 36 ft.
The monument's colossal 18 feet (5.5 m) high statue of Achilles is by the sculptor Richard Westmacott, produced from melted-down captured enemy cannon. Based on the poses of the Borghese Gladiator and more particularly the Quirinal Horse Tamers, it shows the Greek mythological hero as a muscular, nude young man, raising his shield with his left hand and his short sword in his right hand, with his armour standing by his right thigh and his cloak draped over his left shoulder. The monument was funded by donations from British women totalling £10,000. On being transported to its final site, the entrance gates into Hyde Park were too low for it to fit, so it proved necessary to knock a hole in the adjoining wall. The inscription on the statue's Dartmoor granite base reads:


To Arthur Duke of Wellington

and his brave companions in arms

this statue of Achilles

cast from cannon taken in the victories

of Salamanca, Vittoria, Toulouse, and Waterloo

is inscribed

by their country women



Placed on this spot

on the XVIII day of June MDCCCXXII

by command of

His Majesty George IIII.

This was London's first public nude sculpture since antiquity and, though the artist had already included a fig leaf over the figure's genitalia, much controversy still resulted, pitching the sculptor's supporters such as Benjamin Robert Haydon against fierce critics such as George Cruikshank in his Backside & front view of the ladies fancy-man, Paddy Carey. The controversy may also have been linked to Canova's nude colossus of Napoleon that had arrived just before this at Apsley House, and also treated on whether Achilles was a metaphor for military heroism in general, Wellington in particular or both.
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  • This statue was made from the bronze of cannons captured in Wellington's campaigns in France and it was the first statue placed in Hyde Park.  more »
  • This is one of three memorials to the Duke of Wellington within a stone’s throw of each other at Hyde Park Corner and the Duke’s residence at Apsley House. The bronze statue is remarkable for a...  more »
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  • This colossal bronze Achilles (1822), the first statue erected in the Park, idealises Wellington (bearing his likeness) elevating him into the realm of the mythological. The nudity controversial back in the day, implying truth, strength and honour, the pose unabashedly steadfast and vigilant. Homeric, but nowadays this would be Epic,....innit ?.
  • The 18ft statue of Achilles, the Greek hero of the Trojan War, commemorates the soldier and politician, Arthur Wellesley, 1st Duke of Wellington (1769-1852). It was installed by order of King George III and unveiled on 18 June 1822. Located near the Queen Elizabeth Gate at Hyde Park Corner, the statue of Achilles was the first statue installed in Hyde Park and was commissioned by a patriotic, upper class society, known as Ladies of England. The statue was made by Sir Richard Westmacott using 33 tonnes of bronze from cannons captured in Wellington's campaigns in France. The body of the statue is modelled on a Roman figure on Monte Cavallo in Italy. The head is based on the Duke himself. The statue was originally completely nude and caused outrage so a small fig leaf had to be added soon after it was installed.

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