Friday, 22 March 2013

Gloucester Gate Bridge NW1

How accurate can a recreation of an old work of art be? This bronze plaque  in Regent's Park was made by the sculptor Stuart Smith from a photograph of an 1877 original by Ceccardo Egidio Fucigna.
The Gloucester Gate Bridge was built over an arm of the Regent's Canal and for some reason the Vestry of St Pancras decided to splurge some money on it. Perhaps William Thornton, named as the donor of the plaques, was making a bid for remembrance - he also left a rather charming cast iron fountain at St Pancras Old Church.
He chose Fucigna, an Italian from Carrara who had studied in Florence and Rome, to portray the Martyrdom of St Pancras, a Roman who was fed to the lions for his faith. Impressed by the young man's holiness, the beasts refused to attack until he gave them permission.
The bridge was highly ornate, in sandstone with standard lamps and stone figures. But it suffered brutally over time. The canal basin was filled in, so the bridge looks lost and meaningless. A wartime bomb destroyed all the figures. And a truck hit one of the bronze plaques, which went missing during the repair. The other was also stolen.
Recently, English Heritage decided to replace the panels but the only record of their appearance was a single photo. From this, Stuart Smith created a new plaque which was cast in bronze by Morris Singer.
It is impossible to tell how accurate the recreation is, but the figure of the saint seems rather epicene compared with the vigorous images on Fucigna's surviving work at Royal Holloway College. Pancras seems rather occupied in his own thoughts, ignoring both the lion that is gnawing his vitals and the rays of divine encouragement from above.

1 comment:

London Remembers said...

Thanks for this informative post. We were lucky enough to photo the original panel just before it was stolen: . The bridge and its panels do seem to have suffered over the years. We were most struck by the apparent sex-change that St Pancras has experienced between the original and the replacement panels!