Ruff Treatment

Every day I pass Westminster Abbey and School, and during the past couple of weeks there’s been a new edition to this tranquil landscape – a statue, created by Matthew Spender and unveiled by the Queen, of Elizabeth I, who granted the Royal Charter in 1560.

The statue is nominally a figurative work, but with an abstract, brutalist style. The overall effect – with the over-emphasised copper wig and what looks like a pair of massively outsized hands – is unintentially funny.

What’s the point in this? Why abstractify something which needs nothing more or less than to be represented?

Contrast it to the likeness of the Elizabeth in Madam Tussauds. An excellent copy of the famous Ermine portrait at Hatfield House, the face was based on studies of the numerous pictures of the Queen; the figure feels more reliably an image of the Queen than the concrete and copper concoction down the road at Westminster.

Yet one would be considered a vulgar sideshow attraction, the other art. Which, however, required the greater skill to execute? 

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