Wednesday, 24 February 2010

Four Seasons Back Together Again!



Tomorrow (Thursday, 25 February) we unveil four 120 year-old statues representing the seasons of the year. After at least 50 years apart, and some of them losing vital body parts, our Four Seasons are reunited in every sense.

The Four Seasons are some of the oldest surviving statues in the Royal Botanic Gardens, shipped from Italy in 1883. They were originally situated together on the Garden Palace Steps but were later separated and distributed around the Gardens. The two females – spring and summer – lost their heads in the 1970s.

Of course they represent the four European seasons. In Australia we have at least five seasons, so an extra spring statue has been moved to the Spring Walk to celebrate the early Australian flowering season I call sprinter (August & September).

Our stone statues have to endure all seasons of the year, plus occasional vandalism, so every now and then they’ll need some tender love and care. But hopefully we won't have out seasons out of action for as long next time.

The Four Seasons were part of a shipment of statues from the studio of the (Australian-born sculptor living in Rome) Charles Francis Summers, to replace statues lost during the burning of the Garden Palace. Charles F was the son of well-known Australian sculptor Charles Summers.

These statures are part of the rich cultural history of the Gardens going back to 1816. In this case they are part of the Victorian element of the Gardens.

Some of our Victorian statues were removed during 1910s for moral reasons, others during 1970s for reasons of artistic taste. Of those that survived, the two females - spring and summer - lost their heads in the 1970s or thereabouts…

Sculptor Jacek Luszczyk has now created a new head for Summer and repaired Spring’s noggin. He's also repaired the sickle and iris for Summer, and a hand for Spring. All four seasons have been cleaned up and repaired under the guidance of International Conservation Services, led by Julian Bickersteth.

A fill-in smaller ‘Spring’, possibly from 1879, has been moved to the Spring Walk, celebrating my proposed fifth season, 'sprinter', beginning on 1 August. Little Spring lost her arm during the Olympics but we hope to have this repaired soon.

Image: This armless 'little' spring has been moved to the Spring Walk. Four freshly repaired and cleaned statures now bookend the Garden Palace Steps.

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