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Key facts
Full title Victory
Artist Probably by Edward Hodges Baily
Artist dates 1788 - 1867
Group Central Portico Sculptures
Date made 1826-32
Medium and support Portland stone
Acquisition credit Commissioned by the Office of Works for the Marble Arch, and installed on the Gallery by 1838
Inventory number H208
Location Gallery Exterior: Central Portico
Collection History Collection
Victory
Probably by Edward Hodges Baily

This Victory is the work of the British neoclassical sculptor, Edward Hodges Baily, as are its pair and another six female figures, which all adorn the façade of the National Gallery.

In 1826, Baily received a large order for sculpture, including four statues of ‘Victories’, for Marble Arch, which was to be erected in celebration of Britain’s defeat of the French in the Napoleonic Wars. Although Baily completed his commission, not all of his work was used as originally intended; some parts ended up adorning other government buildings. During the construction of the National Gallery, its architect, William Wilkins, was forced, in a cost-cutting exercise, to recycle masonry and statuary from other projects. This explains the presence above the Gallery’s central portico of this statue personifying Victory and its pair, either side of Charles Rossi’s relief depicting Asia and Europe, even though all three pieces were initially created for the Marble Arch commission.

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Central Portico Sculptures

The dominant sculptural ornament of the National Gallery’s central portico is a relief over its entrance, representing Europe and Asia. The continents are personified by two women, one of whom sits on a horse, the other on a camel. They are flanked by a pair of winged female draped figures, standing in niches either side of the entrance. None of these sculptures were originally intended for this setting.

The central sculpture was designed by John Nash in 1827, and carved by Charles Rossi. It was supposed to adorn London’s ceremonial entranceway, the Marble Arch, but was never put up when the arch was reduced in scale and ambition to save money. When it was discovered that the government was not willing to pay for elaborate external decorations on William Wilkins’ new National Gallery, it was decided to rehouse Europe and Asia on Trafalgar Square. The two female figures, sculpted by another British neoclassical sculptor, Edward Hodges Baily, were also originally designed by Nash for the Marble Arch.