Ian Gosling, the Chairman of Dorchester Civic Society, has just discovered that a long over-looked bust of Queen Victoria in Dorchester Town Hall, in the Corn Exchange building, is an important work by the Victorian sculptor Joseph Durham.
The marble bust is an informal portrait of the young Victoria with a garland in her hair wearing a lacy décolleté top with a rose, labelled on its base simply “Victoria”, which is far removed from the stiff depictions of the elderly widow to which we are accustomed. It seems to show her as she was shortly before or after her coronation in 1837 at the age of seventeen.
The work was in fact completed in 1856 when the Queen had already given birth to eight of her nine children and may have been conceived to refresh her image. The sculptor is best known for his imposing monument to the Grand Exhibition of 1851 which incorporates a statue of Prince Abert and stands outside the Albert Hall in London. He executed several other sculptures of the Queen and Prince Albert and is also known for his representations of famous Victorians and his bust of Hogarth in Leicester Square.
The bust was probably installed in the Town Hall when its clock tower was added in 1864.