Completed London: Artists and Subjects, Portraits: British 19th C, Sculpture 20 Can we clarify who sculpted the bust of Beethoven formerly on the edifice of Queen’s Hall, London?

Topic: Artist

This bust of Ludwig van Beethoven was formerly on the edifice of the Queen's Hall, London. There should be a record of the sculptor/architect.

Marion Richards, Art Detective Manager, Entry reviewed by Art UK

Completed, Outcome

This discussion is now closed. This sculpture was produced by the London firm of Sidney W. Elmes & Son (active c.1890–1940). It is part of a series of busts of celebrated composers completed in 1893 for the façade of the Queen’s Hall, Langham Place, London. The records for the other busts in the series (Purcell, Bach, Haydn and Mozart) in the same collection have been updated as well.

Thank you to everyone who contributed to this discussion. To anyone viewing it for the first time, please see below for all the comments that led to this conclusion.


The Collection has commented: ‘Having checked our collections management system, we have found the following notes made by the cataloguer that may help in the research of the creator of the busts. They also indicate where all of the papers and records relating to the Queen’s Hall are housed if someone is able to look into these.

Unfortunately, we don’t know for certain who the sculptor was, but perhaps these notes might help the art detectives in their research:

“The architect of the Queen's Hall was T.E. Knightley, although there was some dispute with a second architect called C.J. Phipps, with whom he had prepared the original plan; this was resolved with Knightley being awarded the title of 'architect'. (see The Builder, 30 December 1893). At this stage the building was still known as the 'Victoria Concert Hall'.

The records say that S.W. Elmes did the carving, whilst 'external ornamentation' was by the Parisian firm of Noel Quillet. Robert Elvin, in his book on the Queen's Hall, also notes the sculptural contractor as 'Mr C. Wall of Chelsea'.

Notes in the National Monument Record record that 'the busts of famous musicians from the facade of the blitzed Queen's Hall are now (1953) in the care of the 'St Marylebone Society'. They were on view at the Imperial Institute, SW7, Nov-Dec 1953'. Another note, in Westminster Archives, records: 'Queen's Hall after the bombing - the small busts in niches rescued by St Marylebone Society ... stored with Royal Acadamy [sic] of Music about 1950, with four others of minor composers'.

The building was finally pulled down in 1953. All the records, correspondence, specifications from the architect, original plans, drawings and engravings for Queen's Hall, 1891-1908 are in CRES 35/2144 in the National Archives (including initial plans and documentation dated 1908 to turn the hall into a National Opera House), with further information in other files Westminster Archives holds a reasonable collection of photographs of the damaged hall, and the National Monument Archive has excellent photographs of the original interior.’

Jacinto Regalado,

I take it the bust is unsigned, especially on the back we cannot see. Can the collection confirm that?

Marcie Doran,

Here is an article on the UCL website about various London sites, including the Queen’s Hall.

The article includes this text:
“The photograph at the top of the page shows only some of the abandoned composers in profile (the complete set consisted of Brahms, Gluck, Handel, Mendelssohn, Wagner and Weber). By then the full busts (Bach, Beethoven, Haydn, Mozart, Purcell and Tchaikovsky) had probably been rescued by the St Marylebone Society with the aid of the Royal Academy of Music. For years they adorned the garden of a cottage in Olney, Buckinghamshire, shared by the violinist and teacher Rosemary Rapaport and Sir Thomas Armstrong, former Principal of the Royal Academy of Music. They were returned to the Academy in 2001 after restoration, and can now be seen in its museum on the Marylebone Road.”

I have attached the photo. The photo is attributed as follows:
“Portrait busts of great composers lying amidst rubble after the Queen’s Hall was hit by an incendiary bomb in 1941 (Photograph by Larkin Brothers Ltd., reproduced by kind permission of the Royal Academy of Music)”

1 attachment

'Mr. C. Wall of Chelsea' who was the 'sculptural contractor' may have been connected with the building contractor Charles Wall of Lots Road, Chelsea, of whom Grace's Guide notes mentions in 'The Engineer' between 1900 and 1915:

From 1909 Wall's were substructure contractors in the building of County Hall, London, so they sound more 'structural'.

Here is also an example of relief terracotta work on Mary Adelaide House, Paddington Green, by Elmes -the other name mentioned:

'Sculpture of mother and children (S W Elmes & Son, sculptors, completed 1895), above the main entrance to the former Paddington Green Children's Hospital (H P Adams, completed 1895)'

If it is strictly 'executants' being looked for then Elmes & Son -or at least their team - sound the more likely. Another man who did the sort of facade 'roundel' portraits in stone about this time as shown in the photo attached by Marcie was C. Raymond Smith. His examples of naval heroes (Drake, Nelson et al) are on the 1880s river facade of the Pepys Building at the Old Royal Naval College, Greenwich, but there, must have been others also doing such work and Elmes is the firm mentioned here.

Marcie Doran,

Is it possible that the sculptor was the French sculptor Louis-Ernest Barrias (13 April 1841 – 4 February 1905)? According to Wikipedia, he was involved in the decoration of the Paris Opéra. He might have worked with the Parisian firm of Noel Quillet (see David’s comment).

He was known for a young Mozart sculpture (see link on ArtUK below). I imagine that a wealthy patron would have thought him the appropriate artist to produce sculptures of musicians for the Queen’s Hall.

“Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart (1756–1791)
Louis-Ernest Barrias (1841–1905)
c. 1883
Royal College of Music”

I think his “Statue of Bossuet” from 1873, at the Sorbonne, has exactly the same cheeks. I have attached it for convenience but found it on this Wikipedia site.

1 attachment
Jacob Simon,

This discussion, “Can we clarify who sculpted the bust of Beethoven formerly on the edifice of Queen’s Hall, London?” has attracted eight contributions in the last two months. It concerns a bust of Beethoven which formed part of the exterior decoration of a concert hall, the Queen’s Hall, which was damaged in the Second World War. The busts can be seen on the façade of the hall in an old pre-war photograph identified by Kieran (11 September).

Marcie has kindly posted a page from “The Builder”, 2 December 1893, which states, “Messrs Sidney W. Elmes & Son executed the exterior carving”. “The Builder” is an authoritative source. This confirms the information in the first post in this discussions that the Elmes business was responsible for the carving.

As such, subject to other group leaders and the collection, I recommend that we close this discussion on the basis that Sidney W. Elmes & Son executed the bust and that it dates to 1893.

Presumably the same would apply to the RAM busts of Mozart, Bach and Haydn, which (on appearance only) seem to be from the same set but of so far 'unknown' authorship. This one also appears to be:

From the Survey of London listing provided by Kieran ('Bach, Beethoven, Haydn, Mozart, Purcell and Tchaikovsky'), elimination points to Purcell. I assume Tchaikovsky is now missing, at least from the RAM holding.

S. Elin Jones,

There’s an interesting program that was aired on Radio 3 in 2011 in the archives of the BBC (the Beethoven bust can just be seen to the right of the entrance). It discusses the history of the Queen’s hall from the beginning, to it’s destruction on May 10th 1941. During that time it had become the home of the British Broadcasting Company Symphony Orchestra and was also the place that the Proms first took place. It briefly also mentions the busts in an interview with the Curator of the Royal Academy of Music (approx 35 mins ). The facade was still standing, well into the 50’s as it was hoped that the venue would be rebuilt and the site was marked to be used for the same purpose as it was used before the war. Initially it was hoped for the festival of Britain in 1951. This did not happen, and permission was given for a hotel to be built on the site in 1959.

The bust of Henry Wood by Donald Gilbert that is seen every year in the Proms, was also a survivor of the incendiary bombing of the Queen’s Hall, which is in the collection of the Royal Academy of Music.

There is also a Pathé News clip from 1942 with regards to the destruction of the Queen’s Hall. The clip is very much of it’s time.

Katharine Eustace, Sculpture,

Ludwig van Beethoven (1770–1827), 1893
Sidney W. Elmes & Son (active c.1890–1940)
Portland stone; 39.5 x 33 x 33 insa, 82 x 47.5 x 30 cm
Presented by Lord Armstrong of Ilminster and Miss Helen Armstrong, 2001
Royal Academy of Music, London (2004.56)

This and the other surviving examples now in the RAM Collection (Purcell [I favour Purcell here], Haydn, Bach and Mozart) were from a series of celebrated composers on the façade of the Queen’s Hall, Langham Place, London. They are clearly to be seen in a photograph provided by Kieran Owens, taken by the photographic company Bedford Lemere and Co. (1894; Historic England collection).

Building work was completed in 1893, as recorded in the Builder (2. Dec.1893), and the same source lists among the contractors, Sidney W. Elmes & Son for the ‘exterior sculpture’. The series may be early work from this company, whose place of business is only recorded (Mapping Sculpture site) from 1900 until c.1940 at addresses in Chelsea and Fulham. On the same site, with no examples given, S.W. Elmes is described as a ‘modeller’, and Pieter van der Merwe’s example of his terracotta Mother and Children (1895), at the former Paddington Green Children's Hospital, is to the point here. One notes the propinquity of these addresses to the structural, and possibly ‘sculptural’ (though this may be a letter-press typo), building firm of C[harles] Wall of Lots Road, Chelsea, also listed in the Builder among the contractors. Marcie Doran’s suggestion of a connection through the interior designer decorator Noel Quillet of Paris (‘external’ ornamentation is unlikely; Quillet was noted for using carton pierre for raised ornament; place.pdf, p. 40) to the work of Louis-Ernest Barrias, was interesting, save that the work of Barrias is original, highly sophisticated, and of international renown. The series of busts here are standard renditions of what one may fairly call iconic types, in other words the accepted image of the celebrated subject. In the Survey of London Chapter 19 cited above, Elmes & Son are described as an ‘obscure’ company, but clearly had the capacity to undertake such work with skilled artisan mason carvers in their employ, no doubt the product of the South Kensington and Lambeth Schools of Art.

One can only note with regret the damage to the surface of those busts exposed to weathering in a garden over fifty years, and thank S. Elin Jones for further contextual material, always useful for hard-pressed curators.

Kieran Owens,

It might be important to note that this bust is not one of those in the ground-floor roundels that appeared in the photograph of the bombed-out ruins of the Queen's Hall, which I attached earlier, but it is one from the niches that were to be found on the first-floor levels of the facade, as can be seen in the attached image (busts in niches are circled in red, busts in roundels are circled in blue)

Kieran Owens,

• Artist

Sidney Walter Elmes (1844-1916)

As the son of Henry Elms (sic)/Elmes, a wood carver, and Sarah Lightfoot, and under the name "Sidney Walter Elms" (no e), the artist was baptised in the New Church Society, Victoria Street, St. Helier, Jersey, on the 3rd November 1844. The progress of his life can be seen in the attached documents. He died on the 6th October 1916, "aged 73". So as not to confuse the two men, his son, Sidney Walter Augustus Elmes was also a sculptor (hence the Sidney Elmes and Son in the Mapping Sculpture entry), who died in London on the 25th May 1938.

Kieran Owens,

It is a little bit of overkill, I'm afraid, but as there does not seem to be much known about him the information provided will hopefully make for the basis of a useful biographical summary.

Kieran, I am sure it will. However in this case the busts of composers for the Queen's Hall were produced by the firm Sidney W. Elmes & Son, rather than by Sidney Walter Elmes working independently.

Prior to this discussion, neither the firm nor the sculptor was in Art UK's database. A new record as been created for the firm, but we don't create records or biographies for artists who have no work on the site, so the information on Elmes will have to be stored for future use.

Suggestions/questions about how Art UK records firms and workshops, and individuals working under the company name and as artists in their own right, should be addressed to