In October last year, I wrote about a statue that used to adorn Island Gardens. Regular contributor, Eric Pemberton had sent a couple of photographs which shows a classical style statue entitled Diana the Huntress.
According to the page from a book “Greater London by Christopher Trent which was published in 1965, the statue was there in the 1960s. It is in the 1970s that the park was transferred to the London Borough of Tower Hamlets and it was around this time that people think the statue disappeared from the gardens.
The story generated considerable interest and a number of people began to make enquiries into the statue, one of the first leads was that there was a similar statue in the Victoria and Albert Museum and the Island Garden statue was considered a copy of this statue.
However, further investigation into the V & A statue began to create considerable interest.
The interesting part about the V & A Statue is that it does have a connection with East London.
The Marble statue at the V & A is called Diana Hunting by Giovanni Maria Benzoni born 1809 – died 1873 and was made in Rome in 1859.
Diana is shown carrying a bow and arrow with a dog by her side. It was exhibited at the International Exhibition in South Kensington in 1862. The statue is adapted from the 4th century B.C marble known as the Diane de Versailles in the Louvre in Paris.
The statue was part of the Dixon bequest, Joshua Dixon was a merchant and art collector who bequeathed his collection of 295 oil paintings, watercolour drawings, bronzes and statuary to the Bethnal Green branch of the South Kensington Museum in 1886 for ‘the use of the public of East London’.
So the question arises is the V & A statue, the same Diana that was in Island Gardens ?
I decided to visit the V & A to have a closer look, the statue is not hard to find being in the middle of the café.
On close inspection, the statue is practically identical with dog looking quite appealing and arrows in quiver, it would be quite a coincidence if there was this statue in Bethnal Green and an exact copy in Island Gardens.
If the statue had been placed in Island Gardens by the local council, why are there no records ? is it possible that the statue was part of a wider campaign to bring art to the people that was popular in the 60s and 70s ?
We will only know for sure, if the V & A have records about where the statue has been and a number of people are asking the museum for more information.
Only then we can confirm that the Island Gardens Diana and the V & A Diana are the same statue.