The assumption of Queen Victoria. Photogravure, 1902, after A. Drummond, 1901.

  • Drummond, Arthur, 1870-1951.
March 1902
  • Pictures

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About this work


Above, Queen Victoria, having ascended into heaven, is seated enthroned on a cloud. Prince Albert stands on the left. Around her, natives of the countries of the Empire lay gifts before her. Below, Lord Salisbury, standing with the Government behind him, reads an address of condolence to King Edward VII, seated. Behind the king stand members of the Royal Family. In the background to the lower scene, a crowd of people stand, beyond whom are seen factories, iron ships and a steam train representing engineering triumphs of the Queen's reign


London (13 New Burlington Street) : Cadbury Jones & Co. Ltd., March 1902 (Berlin : Stiefbold & Co.) ; (New York : Fisher Adler & Schwartz)

Physical description

1 print : photogravure ; sheet approximately 111.5 x 75.5 cm


Bears artist's signature and date on foot of desk, centre: "Arthur Drummond 1901"


Wellcome Collection 575624i

Reproduction note

After: an oil painting sold at Christie's in London in 1996. Christie's described it as follows: "An allegory of the British Empire signed and dated "Arthur Drummond 1901" (centre left); oil on canvas 137 x 81 in. (305 x 208.7 cm.). Though hardly politically correct, the picture is a fascinating document and a splendid exercise in imperial hagiography. It was evidently painted to mark the accession of Edward VII in 1901. The King sits in the right foreground, receiving an address from Lord Salisbury, the Mace of the House of Commons lying on a table between them. Salisbury had been Prime Minister intermittently since 1885, and was to continue in office until the conclusion of the Boer War in the summer of 1902, dying the following year. Behind the King stand prominent members of his family: his wife, Queen Alexandra; his son and daughter-in-law, the Duke and Duchess of York, later King George V and Queen Mary; and his seven-year-old grandson, Prince Edward of York, later King Edward VIII. To Salisbury's right stands Field-Marshall Lord Roberts, recently returned from his triumphs in South Africa and appointed commander-in-chief; and behind them is a group of politicians, among whom Chamberlain, Haldane, Milner, Campbell-Bannerman and Balfour (who succeeded Salisbury, his uncle, as premier in 1902) are recognisable. Further back stand rank upon rank of great men of the day. They include Kitchener, Curzon, General Booth, Keir Hardie and Frederick Temple, Archbishop of Canterbury; the philosopher Herbert Spencer; writers such as Swinburne, Kipling and Edmund Gosse; and the artists Alma-Tadema, Herkomer, Holman Hunt and G. F. Watts. The view in the distance to the left represents industry, railways and shipping, at once symbols and vehicles of imperial might. All the figures shown on ground level were still alive in 1901, even if, like Spencer, Swinburne and Watts, they belonged essentially to the Victorian rather than the Edwardian era. Conversely, all those seen among the clouds above were dead by 1901. In the centre is Queen Victoria herself, seated on the throne of the House of Lords and holding an orb. Crowns descend upon her from some celestial source above, no doubt to symbolise her divine right or semi-priestly status. Like her son below, she has her family around her. To her left are her father and mother, the Duke and Duchess of Kent, while to her right stands her beloved and much mourned husband, Prince Albert, who had died in 1861. The three figures to his right would appear to be their second son, Alfred, Duke of Edinburgh (died 1900), their second daughter, Alice (died 1878), who had married the Grand Duke of Hesse, and (in red) Prince Albert Victor, Duke of Clarence, the eldest son of the Prince of Wales, whose early death in 1892 had left his younger brother George, Duke of York, heir to the throne. Behind these we see a group of leading Victorian politicians, among them Cobden, Melbourne, Peel, Derby, Palmerston, Gladstone, Disraeli, Bright and Parnell. Beyond them are leading churchmen - Newman, Manning, Keble, Pusey, Jowett, E. W. Benson and Samuel Wilberforce; and then a galaxy of writers and philosophers, including Wordsworth, Tennyson, the Brontes, the Brownings, Carlyle, Ruskin, George Eliot, John Stuart Mill, Matthew Arnold, Wilkie Collins, William Morris and Robert Louis Stephenson. In the far distance on the other side of the divine radiance is a group of artists, among whom Turner, Landseer, Leighton, Rossetti, Burne-Jones and Keene can be identified. Further forward are the scientists - Darwin, Faraday, Huxley, Owen, Lyell; followed by a group of explorers, including Livingstone and Speke. Finally, to the right of the Queen's parents, stand some eminent soldiers and proconsuls - Wellington, Outram, Napier, Gordon and others. In front of the Queen are a number of figures emblematic of the British Empire. Kneeling in grateful homage for the peace and enlightenment of her reign, they include two Indian maharajahs and a Zulu warrior. The white female figures in the group presumably represent colonies such as Canada, Australia and New Zealand. More research would no doubt identify other figures, and perhaps even reveal some pattern in the choice of those included or omitted. It is curious, for example, that Cecil Rhodes, the arch empire-builder, seems to be conspicuous by his absence. He died in 1902, so, if present, would be in the lower zone. The picture is both unusual for Drummond and, possibly, his last work. Born in Bristol, the son of John Drummond, a marine painter, he studied with Alma-Tadema and in Paris with Benjamin Constant and Jean-Paul Laurens. Alma-Tadema was the chief influence on his work, which, with the exception of our picture, seems to have consisted entirely of sentimental genre scenes in classical settings. He began to exhibit at the Royal Academy in 1890, and supported the Royal Institute of Painters in Oil-Colours as well as the Manchester and Birmingham exhibitions. However, he appears to have stopped exhibiting in 1901, although he was only thirty at the time and lived on for another fifty years. Engineering possibly superseded painting as he gives this as his recreation in his entry in Who's Who, adding that he was the "patentee of the Drummond improvements in lathe-beds". He lived all his adult life in Surrey. The picture seems to owe a debt to Italian Renaissance paintings in which a group of saints is seen on the ground with a heavenly vision of other figures above. Drummond must have known both the Louvre and the National Gallery, where there were certainly examples of this type of composition by 1901."



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