Sculpture @ Showgrounds

Melbourne’s Showgrounds are an odd place to dump unwanted marble sculptures from the nineteenth century but it happened and they are still sitting there.


Outside the RASV (Royal Agricultural Society of Victoria) offices at Melbourne Showgrounds is Young Bull and Herdsman, the work of English sculptor Sir Joseph Boehm (1834-1890). The white marble sculpture of a young man leading a small bull by the bronze ring its nose is an appropriate theme for the Melbourne Showgrounds. The carved marble smocking on the herdsman is a fantastic display of technique.

It came to Melbourne for the Centennial Exhibition in 1888-89 and was acquired by the Melbourne Art Gallery and Museum before being gifted to the RASV. It was purchased by the Trustees of State Library at the Centennial Exhibition along with St. George and the Dragon outside the State Library of Victoria.

It makes me wonder how many sculptures did Sir Joseph Boehm send to Melbourne for the Centennial Exhibition? I should also note that  Boehm’s St. George and Dragon was an influence on a very young, Peter Corlett who went on to be one of Melbourne’s most prolific figurative sculptor. Corlett remembers thinking that someone made the sculpture for the first time.

The two sculptures of Queen Victoria and Prince Albert by Charles Summers are slightly less appropriate for the showground’s gardens; Victoria might have been amused. There were originally a set of four sculptures of the royal family, I don’t know where the other two sculptures of her children have gone. The sculptures of the royal family were commissioned by the Trustees of State Library from Charles Summers in 1876. Summers having finished his Burke and Wills Monument, decided that he was Melbourne’s answer to Michelangelo and moved, just like Michelangelo did, to Rome.

It is interesting to note that late nineteenth century sculptures, unlike most other antiques, are actually declining in value.


The one sculpture that appears to have been intended to have been installed at the Showgrounds is a life size equestrian statue The Australian Stockman. It is by Tasmanian based sculptor, Stephen Walker who has numerous public sculptures around Hobart. The bronze plaque says that it is “in memory of David Knox 4 Dec 1916 – 8 April 1995” not that any of the people at the show would know anything about Captain David Knox.

I am surprised that there are any sculptures at the Melbourne Showgrounds.

About Mark Holsworth

Writer, independent researcher and artist, Mark Holsworth is the author of the book Sculptures of Melbourne. View all posts by Mark Holsworth

5 responses to “Sculpture @ Showgrounds

  • Lis Johnson

    so many interesting angles / ideas here but once again struggling to find your conclusion or question or point…

    • Mark Holsworth

      Sorry no big conclusions except that there are several 19th century sculptures that are no longer wanted by the State Library or the NGV. Often public sculpture is more like a new car, the moment that it is driven off the lot, or is installed, the price drops and sometimes you have to give it to whoever will tow it away.

  • Brenda Lee

    The David Knox sculpture is a magnificent memorial in memory of a man who gave great service not only to this Nation but to the Royal Agricultural Society of Victoria as a Life Councillor – for anyone to say it should not be at the Showgrounds one wonders what their motives are to make such a comment – it is a memorial to a good man – a man that gave so much also to the Melbourne Show over many decades – and to see the picture overground with weeds is reprehensible when underneath is beautiful paving – the CEO of the RASV should be questioned as to why such disrespect is being shown – it did not happen in the past – and should not be happening now – so on your thoughts we should have no sculptures around Melbourne or anywhere else – well it appears it is impossible to educate the uneducatable – sad very sad – I SALUTE YOU DAVID – someone who worked closely with you at RASV

  • Finding Our Marbles – The Grolier Club

    […] and scattered dozens of works by Charles and his son. (Queen Victoria and her husband remain together in Melbourne, but their son and daughter-in-law are not only alone but also separated from each […]

What are your thoughts?

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: