The two marble sculptures that greet visitors to the Walker Art Gallery, along with the 'Spirit of Liverpool' on the roof and the bas-relief friezes along the walls, were commissioned by the brewer Sir Andrew Barclay Walker. They were created by John Warrington Wood before being installated in 1877. The figure to the left of the entrance is 'Raphael' and the figure on the right is 'Michelangelo'.
Who were Raphael and Michelangelo and why are they outside the Gallery?
Raphael (Raffaello Sanzio, 1483-1520) and Michelangelo (Michelangelo Buonarroti, 1475-1564) were Italian artists, draughtsmen, architects and central artistic figures in the period 1500-1520, which is often identified as the High Renaissance. Along with artists such as Titian and Leonardo, Raphael and Michelangelo participated in and often stimulated great stylistic changes during their lifetimes.
Such are their reputations and legacies that historically they have been used to epitomize the visual arts, standing as the representatives of painting and sculpture respectively. For this reason they are placed outside a building which celebrates artistic creativity, skill and its history.
Raphael (left) and Michaelangelo (right) outside the Walker in 1872.
Why are the sculptures damaged?
When you see the figures it is obvious that they have deteriorated. 'Raphael' is missing a foot, a hand (not to mention a pen!), a medallion and his nose. 'Michelangelo' similarly is missing sculptural tools and has a very weathered appearance.
The sculptures are made out of Carrara marble. Marble was a popular material with 19th century art patrons since it highlighted the link between their newly commissioned sculpture and the great classical works of ancient Rome and Greece.
Today, the marble is not really evident as the figures are covered in a rough 'crust'. This is due to the harsh effects of the weather as the site of the gallery, at the top of William Brown Street, is very exposed. When white marble is exposed to heavy industrial pollution it forms a thick black crust on the surface, which not only changes the colour of the sculpture but also causes major damage to the detailed carving and the structure of the piece. The erosion of the stone has affected the detailed features of the sculpture which have gradually worn away, or in some instances weakened and broken away. The 'crust' cannot be removed as it would invite the weather to renew its work on the exposed surfaces.
Sculpture on the roof of the Walker Art Gallery
The sculpture on the roof of the gallery is a replica of the 'Spirit of Liverpool' by John Warrington Wood.
This information was researched and written by David Reece and Ria Fell during a work placement at the Walker Art Gallery