Campaign to rescue Rodin's unloved 'Burghers of Calais'

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The Independent Online

One of the country's most beautiful statues, Rodin's The Burghers of Calais, could be moved to a new home after complaints that it is unkempt, unloved and unseen.

One of the country's most beautiful statues, Rodin's The Burghers of Calais, could be moved to a new home after complaints that it is unkempt, unloved and unseen.

The artwork, installed in 1915 in Victoria Tower Gardens behind the House of Lords, has fallen into disrepair and now faces a campaign to have it put in a more prominent position.

The National Art Collections Fund, which is leading the campaign, will assess the statue on Wednesday with a view to rescuing it for the nation.

Rodin's monument, a tribute to the men who offered themselves as hostages to Edward III in 1342 to protect their town from rape and pillage, is certainly in need of protection. Covered in wax to protect it from environmental pollution, its surface is covered with the "Kilroy wos 'ere" graffiti of the tourists who manage to find it amid the shrubbery of the little-known gardens.

The campaign to take the Burghers away from their present site is led by Sir Nicholas Goodison, the chairman of the National Art Collections Fund, which bought the sculpture from Rodin at the turn of the century. It was the last of four casts made - the others are in Calais, Copenhagen and Brussels.

Rodin visited London to oversee the siting of his monument and suggested it could be placed directly in front of the Houses of Parliament, where MPs now have a small green and underground car park. The Speaker at the time objected and it was placed at the rear of the Palace of Westminster.

One contemporary recalled that Rodin "gave up all hope of English taste when hecame to London to advise about the placing of his group. His desired was to have each figure placed on a separate step leading to St Stephen's Hall or some other approach to the Houses of Parliament".

The favourite place among the campaigners, including Sir Nicholas, for repositioning the statue is Abingdon Green, the patch of grass across the road from the Commons where MPs do television interviews. He suggested that the empty plinth in Trafalgar Square could also be a fitting site.

Sir Nicholas said: "Victoria Tower Gardens was not Rodin's first choice. He would have preferred to place the work at ground level at the entrance to the House of Commons. My personal preference would be to site the group at ground level as Rodin wishes, but the Commons entrance is unfortunately now inaccessible to the general public."

The campaign to save the statue has been joined by the Tory peer Baroness Anelay of St Johns, who said: "I have grown to love it. For me it expresses a dilemma.

"It makes you want to touch it, but it is covered in wax and smothered in graffiti. It should be moved."

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