Arthur Sullivan Memorial
A bronze and stone memorial to Arthur Sullivan. A bronze bust of Sullivan stands on a granite pedestal. A figure of a crying muse leans against the plinth. On the base, bronze sculptures of sheet music, the masks of comedy and tragedy and a mandolin.
"The most erotic statue in London"[1]
ArtistWilliam Goscombe John
Completion date1903
Mediumbronze and granite
SubjectArthur Sullivan
Coordinates51°30′33″N 0°07′13″W / 51.5093°N 0.1203°W / 51.5093; -0.1203
Listed Building – Grade II
Official nameSir Arthur Sullivan Memorial
Designated24 February 1958
Reference no.1238072

The Memorial to Arthur Sullivan by William Goscombe John stands in Victoria Embankment Gardens in the centre of London. It was designated a Grade II listed structure in 1958.


Main article: Arthur Sullivan

Sir Arthur Seymour Sullivan (13 May 1842 – 22 November 1900) was an English composer best known for his enduring operatic collaborations with the dramatist W. S. Gilbert. Prior to his death in 1900, Sullivan had expressed a wish to be buried with other members of his family in Brompton Cemetery in West London. At the command of Queen Victoria, he was instead interred in St. Paul's Cathedral.[2] In 1903, a memorial to him was raised in Victoria Embankment Gardens, close to the site of the Savoy Theatre where many of his and Gilbert's comic operas premiered.[3]

Why, O nymph, O why display
Your beauty in such disarray?
Is it decent, is it just,
To so conventional a bust?

—rhyme inspired by "the most erotic statue in London"[4]

The sculptor was Sir William Goscombe John RA.[5] John modelled the head and shoulders bust in bronze,[a] subsequently adding the figure of a disconsolate woman, which he had sculpted in Paris in 1890–1899.[4] Sources variously describe the figure as representing "Grief"[7] or the Greek muse of music, Euterpe.[4]

The statue has been described as "the most erotic in London" and inspired a rhyme on that theme (see box).[4][8][9] John Whitlock Blundell and Roger Hudson, in their study The Immortals: London's finest statues, note the memorial's "fin de siècle spirit".[1]


George Power, Leonora Braham, Jessie Bond and Julia Gwynne at the memorial in 1914

The bust of Sullivan is in bronze and stands on a pedestal of granite.[7] A bronze figure of a woman weeping, her upper body nude and her lower body covered in drapery, leans, as if pressing her body in her grief, against the plinth.[10] Pevsner describes the Art Deco style of the memorial as "in the Père Lachaise manner”.[5] The plinth also carries lines from Gilbert and Sullivan's 1888 opera The Yeomen of the Guard: "Is life a boon? / If so, it must befall / That Death, whene'er he call, / Must call too soon."[4] The lines are repeated in the bronze sculpture at the base, which depicts an open book of music, one of the masks of Comedy and Tragedy, and a mandolin. The pedestal is fronted by a semi-circular stone bearing Sullivan's name and dates of birth and death.[11] The memorial is a Grade II listed structure.[7]


  1. ^ John presented a copy of the bronze to the Royal Academy of Music.[6]


  1. ^ a b Blundell & Hudson 1998, p. 56.
  2. ^ "Funeral of Sir Arthur Sullivan", The Times, 28 November 1900, p. 12
  3. ^ "Sir Arthur Seymour Sullivan". National Portrait Gallery. Retrieved 22 April 2020.
  4. ^ a b c d e Darke 1991, p. 49.
  5. ^ a b Bradley & Pevsner 2003, p. 379.
  6. ^ "Sculpture: Portrait bust of Sir Arthur Seymour Sullivan by Sir William Goscombe John. Bronze, c.1903". Royal Academy of Music. Retrieved 22 April 2020.
  7. ^ a b c Historic England. "Sir Arthur Sullivan Memorial (Grade II) (1238072)". National Heritage List for England. Retrieved 21 April 2020.
  8. ^ "Sir Arthur Sullivan". London Remembers. Retrieved 22 April 2020.
  9. ^ "London's Raciest Statues". Londonist. 29 December 2016. Retrieved 22 April 2020.
  10. ^ Parris, Matthew. "I've found a little Eden in London", The Spectator, 5 March 2022
  11. ^ "Great London Sculptures: Memorial to Sir Arthur Sullivan by Sir William Goscombe John in Victoria Embankment Gardens". London Visitors. 13 January 2019. Retrieved 22 April 2020.