Have you ever taken a closer look at Marble Arch and its sculpture and wondered what it all means and what’s it made of? Read on for a detailed tour of all its features.
The whole Arch is clad in Ravaccione, a grey/white type of Carrara marble from Italy. This was the first time marble had been used in this way on any British building. The eight enormous Corinthian columns were each cut from a single slab of marble.
North side of the Arch
The sculpted panels on this side are by Richard Westmacott who also produced the statue of Achilles nearby at Hyde Park corner.
Left panel: Three female figures representing England (centre) wearing Britannia’s helmet, Ireland (left) with her harp and Scotland (right) with the shield of St Andrew.
Right panel: “Peace with Trophies of War” Peace stands on a heap of shields, helmets and weapons. In her hand she holds an olive branch. Two cherubs hold her gown.
Above each of the three arches are pairs of “Victories” with their laurel wreaths.
The central keystones of the lower arches are the heads of warriors wearing Greek helmets pushed back in the manner of statues of Athena. The central arch has a magnificent lion’s head carving as its keystone, with clawed feet protruding from under its mane.
South side of the Arch
On this side the panels are by E.H. Baily who is perhaps best known for the statue of Nelson in Trafalgar Square.
Left panel: “Virtue and Valour” Virtue is the figure on the right holding the fasces (a bundle of rods around an axe) that symbolise strength through unity and on the left stands a soldier in Roman dress representing valour.
Right panel: “Peace and Plenty” The Angel of Peace is to the left. The flame in the middle represents liberty.
On this side, between the Victories, the keystone of all three arches is a bearded male head, possibly Neptune.
Originally planned to be cast in “mosaic gold”, the central gates were actually cast in less expensive bronze. Each gate features the same three designs: a lion at the top, George IV’s cypher in the middle and St George slaying the dragon at the bottom. The smaller side gates were added in 1851.
Extract from The Story of Marble Arch.