Print, Poetry and Posterity: Grinling Gibbons’s statue of Charles II (1684) for the Royal Exchange

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Original languageEnglish
JournalSculpture Journal
Publication statusAccepted/In press - 30 Jun 2020
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Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

Abstract

Grinling Gibbons’s statue of Charles II for the courtyard of the Royal Exchange, London, was unveiled in 1684 and quickly celebrated as the leading public sculpture of its age. Within a century, the work was so damaged it was replaced by John Spiller’s replica. Scholarly interest in Gibbons’s accomplishments in stone have always been overshadowed by attention to his limewood carvings, even though stone works constituted at least half of his professional output. This article reconstructs the design and importance of the Charles II statue through a series of early cultural responses to the work, including a detailed engraving by Peter Vanderbank and three published poems. These works allow us to appreciate the likely skill of this key sculptural output from the Gibbons workshop, viewing it through contemporary ideas of aesthetic and propagandistic value, in addition to perceiving the prominence it once held in London’s cityscape.