|Location||Jawaharlal Nehru Road, Kolkata, West Bengal, India|
|Collection size||Nearly 30,000 (31 March 2009)|
|Architect||William Emerson, Vincent Esch|
The Victoria Memorial is a large marble building in Central Kolkata, which was built between 1906 and 1921. It is dedicated to the memory of Queen Victoria, Empress of India from 1876 to 1901. It is now a museum under the auspices of the Ministry of Culture, and is the largest monument in the world which is dedicated to a royal. The memorial lies on the Maidan and is one of the famous monuments of Kolkata.
Following the death of Queen Victoria in January 1901, it was suggested by Lord Curzon, then-Viceroy of India, that a fitting memorial to the late Queen-Empress be created. Lord Curzon proposed the construction of a grand building with a museum and gardens.
"Let us, therefore, have a building, stately, spacious, monumental and grand, to which every newcomer in Calcutta will turn, to which all the resident population, European and Native, will flock, where all classes will learn the lessons of history and see revived before their eyes the marvels of the past."
The Prince of Wales, laid the foundation stone on 4 January 1906, and it was formally opened to the public in 1921.
In 1912, before the construction of the Victoria Memorial was finished, King George V announced the transfer of the capital of India from Kolkata to New Delhi. Thus, the Victoria Memorial was built in what would be a provincial city rather than a capital.
The Victoria Memorial was mainly funded by British officials and individuals of India. The politicians and people of India responded generously to Lord Curzon's appeal for funds, and the total cost of construction of the monument, amounting to one crore, five lakhs of Rupees (₹), was entirely derived from their voluntary subscriptions.
The construction of the Victoria Memorial was delayed by Curzon's departure from India in 1905 with a subsequent loss of local enthusiasm for the project and the need for testing of the foundations. The Victoria Memorial's foundation stone was set in 1906 and the building opened in 1921. The work of construction was entrusted to Messrs. Martin & Co. of Kolkata. Work on the superstructure began in 1910. After 1947, some additions were made to the Memorial.
A smaller Victoria memorial was also constructed in the Hardoi District, which has since been converted into a city club for recreation. It is also where Mahatma Gandhi addressed Hardoi in the 1930's.
The Victoria Memorial's architect was William Emerson (1843–1924). The design is in the Indo-Saracenic revivalist style which uses a mixture of British and Mughal elements with Venetian, Egyptian, Deccani architectural influences. The building is 338 by 228 feet (103 by 69 m) and rises to a height of 184 feet (56 m). It is constructed of white Makrana marble.
The gardens of the Victoria Memorial were designed by Lord Redesdale and David Prain. Emerson's assistant, Vincent Jerome Esch, designed the bridge of the north aspect and the garden gates. In 1902, Emerson engaged Esch to sketch his original design for the Victoria Memorial.
Atop the central dome of the Victoria Memorial is the 16 ft (4.9 m) figure of the Angel of Victory. Surrounding the dome are allegorical sculptures including Art, Architecture, Justice, and Charity and above the North Porch are Motherhood, Prudence and Learning.
The Victoria Memorial is built of white Makrana marble. In design it echoes the Taj Mahal with its dome, four subsidiaries, octagonal-domed chattris, high portals, terrace, and domed corner towers.
The Victoria Memorial has 25 galleries. These include the royal gallery, the national leader's gallery, the portrait gallery, central hall, the sculpture gallery, the arms and armory gallery, and the newer, Kolkata gallery. The Victoria Memorial has the largest single collection of the works of Thomas Daniell (1749–1840) and his nephew, William Daniell (1769–1837). It also has a collection of rare and antiquarian books such as the illustrated works of William Shakespeare, the Arabian Nights and the Rubaiyat by Omar Khayyam as well as books about kathak dance and thumri music by Nawab Wajid Ali Shah. However, the galleries and their exhibitions, the programmatic elements of the memorial do not compete with the purely architectural spaces or voids.
The Victoria Gallery displays several portraits of Queen Victoria and Prince Albert, and paintings illustrating their lives, by Jansen and Winterhalter. The oil paintings are copies of those in London. They include Victoria receiving the sacrament at her coronation in Westminster Abbey (June 1838); Victoria's marriage to Albert in the Chapel Royal at St James's Palace (1840); the christening of the Prince of Wales in Windsor Castle (1842); the marriage of Edward VII to Princess Alexandra (1863); Victoria at the First Jubilee service at Westminster Abbey (1887) and the Second Jubilee service at St. Paul's Cathedral (June 1897). Queen Victoria's childhood rosewood pianoforte and her correspondence desk from Windsor Castle stand in the center of the room. Edward VII presented these items to the Victoria Memorial. On the south wall hangs the Russian artist Vasily Vereshchagin's oil painting of the state entry of Edward VII in Jaipur in 1876.
In the mid-1970s, the matter of a new gallery devoted to the visual history of Kolkata was promoted by Saiyid Nurul Hasan, the minister for education. In 1986, Hasan became the governor of West Bengal and chairman of the Victoria Memorial board of trustees. In November 1988, Hasan hosted an international seminar on the Historical perspectives for the Kolkata tercentenary. The Kolkata gallery concept was agreed and a design was developed leading to the opening of the gallery in 1992. The Kolkata gallery houses a visual display of the history and development of Kolkata when the capital of India was transferred to New Delhi. The gallery also has a life-size diorama of Chitpur road in the late 1800s.
The gardens at the Victoria memorial cover 64 acres (260,000 m2) and are maintained by a team of 21 gardeners. They were designed by Redesdale and David Prain. On Esch's bridge, between narrative panels by Goscombe John, there is a bronze statue of Victoria, by George Frampton. Empress Victoria is seated on her throne. In the paved quadrangles and elsewhere around the building, other statues commemorate Hastings, Charles Cornwallis, 1st Marquess Cornwallis, Robert Clive, Arthur Wellesley, and James Broun-Ramsay, 1st Marquess of Dalhousie. To the south of the Victoria, Memorial building is the Edward VII memorial arch. The arch has a bronze equestrian statue of Edward VII by Bertram Mackennal and a marble statue of Curzon by F. W. Pomeroy. The garden also contains statues of Lord William Bentinck, governor-general of India (1833–1835), George Robinson, 1st Marquess of Ripon, governor-general of India (1880–84), and Rajendra Nath Mookerjee, a pioneer industrialist of Bengal. Following an order of the West Bengal High Court in 2004, an entry fee was imposed for the gardens, a decision welcomed by the general public except for few voices of dissent.
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