Friday 3 October 2008

Peter the Great in Deptford (3): the statue

Peter the Great's visit to Deptford was apparently once commemorated by a bust in Deptford West Power Station. However, that had disappeared when a chance enquiry about its whereabouts was made on behalf of Edwin Holdup, former power station manager, to Canon Graham Corneck, the Rural Dean of Deptford. Although Canon Corneck didn't find the bust, he was inspired to campaign for a public memorial. He received support from Vladimir Molchanov, First Secretary at the Russian Embassy, and Lewisham and Greenwich councils.

The Peter the Great Tercentenary Committee was formed, and it originally intended to run an open competition. However, the monument actually erected is a gift from the people of Russia. It was designed by two Russian sculptors, Viacheslav Bukhaev who was responsible for the architectural elements and Mikhail Chemiakin, (or Shemyakin) responsible for the sculptural elements.

Chemiakin had gone into exile from Russia in 1971 after his art was condemned by the Soviet authorities. He settled in New York, but his work has been exhibited in Russia since the Soviet Union broke up, and he and Bukhaev had already created a Peter the Great monument for St Petersburg. His original plan for the Deptford sculpture supposedly involved court jesters baring their bottoms, but the actual monument has restricted itself to one dwarf jester holding a ship and globe, while Peter carries a telescope.

The statue was unveiled by Prince Michael of Kent in June 2001 on land given by Fairview Homes. However, it was not the Committee's only achievement. They also formed the Peter the Great Educational Trust, whose educational aims included developing cultural and academic links between Russia and Great Britain.

For more detailed information on this and many, many other South London monuments, Public Sculpture of South London by Terry Cavanagh is an invaluable reference book.

For all Peter the Great posts, click here


Anonymous said...

Great idea, but sadly a rather ugly sculpture in my opinion.

CarolineLD said...

So ugly and bizarre that I wonder whether it was less a gift than a practical joke!

Anonymous said...

My family was very impressed with the statue of
Peter the Great. We thought it most unusual and interesting. Well worth a visit in spite of the rather dreary apartments behind. What a pity the previous comments were so negative! A Newburian.

Buzzwords said...

We thought it was great! He was an exceptional if not odd man and the statue and chair and dwarf all in character. The granite base from St Petersburg and the bronze itself from New York were really splendid. Very well worth a visit- especially with food drink and Cutty Sark close by.

Deucalion and Crew said...

This is really impressive and a great monument to the man and to Depford's past. It should be celebrated and used to improve links with Russia for the benefit of humanity. Regarding the comments about it being ugly. It is rather ostentatious but its Russian so actually in keeping.