Historic Australian sculpture reveals colonial controversy
This enigmatic work was recently donated to the museum and is now on display to the public.
Functionally plumbed, the 1.3 metre tall statue is as extraordinary as it is mysterious. Since its arrival, Maritime Museum Tasmania staff and volunteers have been busy piecing together the evidence to determine who the statue depicts, why the statue was commissioned, and by whom.
While certainty about the identity of the fountain figure remains elusive, there is a compelling case that it may represent Lieutenant-Governor George Arthur. The provocative nature of the work suggests a political statement of contempt rather than a whimsical garden feature.
If the statue does depict Lieutenant-Governor George Arthur, then the investigation points towards a window in time it was commissioned, and therefore who may have made it: between May 1835 and early 1836, during the period when stonemason Daniel Herbert was working on the Ross Bridge.
William Kermode, an extremely successful merchant in the colony at the time is suspected to be responsible for commissioning the fountain figure. Evidence suggests that few individuals possessed the animosity, resources, and opportunity to authorise such a contemptuous political statement.
"This extraordinary work challenges our perceptions of colonial art and political expression," says Maritime Museum Tasmania President Chris Tassell. "Maritime Museum Tasmania is pleased to be able to present this remarkable and provocative sculpture and we invite the public to join us in unravelling the mysteries of Australia's earliest known free-standing full-length statue."
The enigmatic sculpture is now on display in Maritime Museum Tasmania's Carnegie Gallery and offers a unique glimpse into the complexities of colonial Tasmania. Guests are encouraged to visit the museum's display and engage in the ongoing conversation about the origins and significance of this remarkable piece.