Boer War Page 91g
Great Canadian Heritage Discoveries
More key items the Museum has added to its collections in its ongoing efforts to preserve important Canadian heritage memorabilia from this period.

Victorian Busts for the Masses - Parian 1

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A Piece of Sir Colin: In the days before television and mass-produced colour magazines, the marble bust was a treasured way in which Victorian people of means could get a vicarious thrill by "rubbing elbows" with celebrities. Above a rare 16" high, 1857 Parian bust of Sir Colin Campbell whose thrilling stand with his "Thin Red Line" at Balaclava, against a thunderous Russian cavalry charge, won him an immortal place in the pantheon of British military heroes. (Canadian litho from Robert Gibb's most celebrated work, painted in 1881.)

Everyone wanted to have a bust of a famous personality from the Anglo-Boer War. Though the available figures were all British, Canadians snapped them up, so that today these can still be found in homes across Canada, or turning up at auctions.

(These imitation marbles were called Parian.)

Great Canadian Heritage Treasure
Parian bust, Queen Victoria 1887
Orig. bisque bust - Size - 22 cm
Found - Ottawa, ON

During the late nineteenth century, marble busts had only been affordable for the rich, made of Parian marble imported from the Greek island of Paros. In 1842 a technique was invented by pouring a clay mixture into a mould, which resulted in busts that were light-weight, hollow, and and looked as good as the solid marble ones but were far cheaper.

Most people wanted a bust of Queen Victoria, left, found in Ottawa, ON, to grace their parlour.

But liberal Prime Minister William Ewart Gladstone left whose administration had suffered a humiliating defeat at the hands of the Boers during the First Anglo-Boer War, in 1881, was a popular second choice.

When the Boer War broke out, British generals became favoured Parian subjects.

The most popular subject was "Bobs", Lord Roberts of Kandahar VC left and far left, who turned the early British defeats into seeming victory with his triumphant March to Pretoria.

Great Canadian Heritage Treasure
Parian bust, Lord Roberts VC 1900
Orig. parian bust - Size - 22 cm
Found - Columbus, OH
Signed & Dated, WC Lawton, R&L
Great Canadian Heritage Treasure
Parian bust, Lord Kitchener 1900
Orig. parian bust - Size - 17 cm
Found - Chatham, ON
Signed & Dated, WC Lawton, R&L

His large 21 cm bust shows the stunning detail possible on Parian busts, which was superior to that found on true marble busts.

The 17 cm Parian bust of Lord Kitchener left, spent the last 100 years in a house in Chatham, ON, in the prized collection of an elderly lady.

The ruthless "K of Chaos" as he was known by officers and men alike, succeeded Lord Roberts as commander-in-chief in South Africa in 1900.

It was Kitchener who ordered the disastrous attack on Bloody Sunday at Paardeberg. It proved to be the bloodiest battle of the war and costliest to Canada since the War of 1812. Thirty-one Canadians died.

Kitchener would oversee the longest and most bitter part of the war.

Other heroic generals were honoured with busts.

Parians were most popular in the 22 cm size, though smaller ones were common.

Rare parians, indeed, are the gloriously huge ones like that of British populist and reform politician Richard Cobden far left. It came from an old estate in Simcoe, Ontario. Only the wealthiest could afford to display those in their homes.

Great Canadian Heritage Treasure
Parian bust, Richard Cobden, 1865
Orig. parian marble - Size - 43 cm
Found - Simcoe, ON
Si
gned WF Wyon, Registered June 27, 1865
Great Canadian Heritage Treasure
Parian bust, General French 1900
Orig. parian bust - Size - 17 cm
Found - Ilford, UK -
Signed & Dated, WC Lawton, R&L
Painting parians was not uncommon.

Right, is the fabled British cavalry commander General John French, whose relentless pursuit of the Boers, resulted in him destroying more horses than any other cavalry commander in history.

French would be the British commander in chief during the opening year of World War 1, before he was replaced. Unfortunately, for hundreds of thousands of British soldiers, his successor was Douglas Haig, who had been French's Chief of Staff during the Boer War. Haig proved to be as ruthless with the lives of his men as his mentor had been with the lives of his horses.

Someone - a century ago - decided to give the base a faux wood look with a coat of paint.

Great Canadian Heritage Treasure
Parian bust, Queen Victoria 1887
Orig. bisque bust - Size - 22 cm
Found - Ottawa, ON

Those who did not like their parians in their original white, could always have them painted, as one Canadian in Quebec did to the 1900 Lord Roberts far left. It is the same version of bust as the unpainted one top.

Someone else, in Ottawa, Ontario, did the same to the 1887 Golden Jubilee bust of Queen Victoria, left which is a painted version of her white parian, top.

Great Canadian Heritage Treasure
Parian bust, Lord Roberts VC 1900
Orig. parian bust - Size - 22 cm
Found - Repentigny, PQ
Signed & Dated, WC Lawton, R&L

Victorian Busts for the Masses - Non Parian

For those who could not afford Parian busts there were alternatives: a 21 cm earthenware bust of Edward, who succeeded Victoria in the middle of the Boer War left. He became known as the Peacemaker, because he refused to be crowned until the Peace was won.

Another alternative was the solid and heavier plaster of Paris bust, like the 23 cm one of Prime Minister Sir Wilfrid Laurier right who insisted Canadian volunteers to South Africa would be sent, not as stuffing for holes in the British army, but organized as Canadian army units under Canadian officers.

Great Canadian Heritage Treasure
Earthenware bust, Edward VII 1902
Orig. earthenware bust - Size - 21 cm
Found - Omaha, NB
Signed & Dated, WC Lawton, R&L
Great Canadian Heritage Treasure
Plaster bust, Edward VII 1896
Orig. plaster bust - Size - 23 cm
Found - Cookstown, ON
Great Canadian Heritage Treasure
Bust, King Edward VII, 1910
Orig. ceramic bust - Size - 26 cm
Found - London, UK
Signed Doulton Lambeth, L Harradine Sc
A truly magnificent bust of King Edward VII, signed by Royal Doulton's most noted sculptor, Leslie Harradine, who executed some of its most famous creations from the 1920s to the 1950s.

Great Canadian Heritage Treasure
Bust, Princess Alexandra, c 1880
Orig. earthenware bust - Size - 14 cm
Found - Toronto, ON
High Class
&
Low

But earthenware could be glorious like the specially carved bust left, by Royal Doulton's top sculptor, Leslie Harradine, set on a fine ceramic plinth.

Right, a bust for Everyman, a tiny earthenware of Princess Alexandra that would be the pride of the boudoir of the lowliest Victorian shop girl.

Great Canadian Heritage Treasure
Spelter bust, General Baden-Powell 1900
Orig. spelter bust - Size - 17 cm
Found - Kingston, ON
Helter Spelter: Other alternatives were available: cheap metal spelter busts, for the cash-strapped were popular because they looked like the more expensive bronze objects d'art found in rich people's homes.

Spelter is light weight and is another name for the metal zinc. Many busts and statues were made out of spelter.

These three spelter busts are from a series of generals made during the Boer War.

Baden-Powell became a hero after holding out against a Boer siege on his little town of Mafeking. He would win immortality by founding the Boy Scout movement based on his southern African adventures.

General Gordon was the martyred hero of the British Empire, being killed by angry insurgent tribesmen at Khartoum in 1885, when he was trying to impose his British Christian military will on Muslim tribesmen, in their own homeland.

Great Canadian Heritage Treasure
Spelter bust, Lord Roberts, 1900
Orig. spelter bust - Size - 17 cm
Found - Kingston, ON
Great Canadian Heritage Treasure
Spelter bust, General Gordon 1900
Orig. spelter bust - Size - 17 cm
Found - Kingston, ON

For the Rich and the Super-rich

Great Canadian Heritage Treasure
William Ewart Gladstone - c 1880
Orig. bronze bust - Size - 30 cm, wt 3 kg
Found - London, ON
Great Canadian Heritage Treasure
Benjamin Disraeli - c 1880
Orig. bronze bust - Size - 29 cm, wt 3 kg
Found - London, ON
Busts in bronze could only be afforded by the upper classes.

Two of the most popular figures, for expensive busts, were leading British Victorian Prime Ministers, - and political adversaries - Liberal William Ewart Gladstone (1809-1898) left, and Conservative Benjamin Disraeli (1804-1881) right, whose solid bronze busts, on heavy glass bases, came from an old London, Ontario estate.

These busts date from c 1880 when their political conflicts were at their peak. Memorabilia items like these were commonly brought over to Canada from the British Isles by immigrants trying to maintain some psychological ties to their homeland and its main celebrities.

The busts are wonderfully patinated, and have residue in the cracks from Brasso probably applied, a century ago, by a maid who was ordered to make them shine before a party probably in an upper class mansion.

Even rarer busts are below crafted by Canada's leading sculptors, over a century ago.

Great Canadian Heritage Treasure
Queen Victoria - Hamilton MacCarthy 1897
Orig. bronze bust - Size - 46 cm, wt 11.8 kg
Found - Shakespeare, ON
Signed H MacCarthy RCA, Sculptor, 1897
Great Canadian Heritage Treasure
Plaster Plaque, Sir Wilfrid Laurier - 1905
Orig. plaster plaque - Size - 44 x 57 cm, wt 6 kg
Found - Victoriaville, PQ
Signed on back, Par L. Moisan Jnr, Sculpteur
- Enregistré 4 Mars 1905
A giant plaster plaque, like this one, cast in a mould by Quebec artist L. Moisan Jnr., was crafted for a very select clientele.

This extremely rare, and fabulous polished plaster plaque captures the mystique of Sir Wilfrid. The rear is inscribed with the artist's name and the registry date of March 4, 1905 below. Sir Wilfrid had six more years to serve in office.

This cast is a full 57 cm high and weighs 6 hefty kilos. Sir Wilfrid was probably designed to hang in finer homes or offices.

Is there anyone out there who would want to hang former Prime Minister Brian Mulroney....?

Left above and below are two of the most expensive busts ever made, in bronze.

Queen Victoria is resplendently crafted by leading Canadian sculptor Hamilton MacCarthy, whose huge monumental statues grace many of Canada's leading public spaces.

Left is one of the rarest of the rare, a 28 cm bronze bust of Georges Etiènne Cartier, only 12 of which were ever cast, as gifts to patrons who donated to the construction of his memorial statue in Montreal. It was made by George Hill, one of Canada's finest sculptors.

Though busts of famous figures were commonly made for homes, statues were also produced but they are extremely rare to find.

Search: Hébert, MacCarthy

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