The history of the State Library of Victoria

How to research the history, development, architecture, collections and management of the State Library of Victoria.

Introduction

Details of the following statues in front of the Library, and the murals on the walls between the Queen's Hall and the Domed Reading Room, are on this page:

  • the metal lions, installed in the 1860s
  • statues of Queen Victoria, Prince Albert, the Prince of Wales (Edward VII) and the Princess of Wales (Alexandra of Denmark), installed in 1879
  • ‘Sir Redmond Barry', installed in 1887
  • ‘St George and the Dragon', installed in 1889
  • ‘Jeanne d'Arc' (Joan of Arc), installed in 1907
  • the murals painted in 1923 and 1929
  • the two soldiers, ‘Wipers' and ‘The Driver', erected in 1937 and relocated to the Shrine of Remembrance in 1998
  • the sculpture ‘Architectural fragment', installed on the footpath outside the Library in 1993
  • the James Joyce Seat of Learning, installed in 2004
  • 'Lieutenant-Governor La Trobe', installed in 2006
  • two sculptures from the Dromkeen Scholastic Collection of Children’s Book Art, installed 2012

Statue of Joan of Arc and lion 1918 (detail), H5361

General sources

Ridley, Ronald T, 1996, Melbourne's monuments, Carlton, Melbourne University Press, pp.94-96

Melbourne (Vic.) Libraries. State Library of Victoria. Forecourt,
Local History File - ask at information desk for access.

Copies of newspaper articles and other material relating to the 1997 redevelopment of the forecourt of the State Library. Includes illustrations, plan and copies from an published 1997 ‘Conservation survey and treatment proposal' by International Conservation Services, of St. George and the Dragon', Jeanne d'Arc' and the two lamp stands (gasoliers). Provides general description of each, inscriptions, dimensions, artist, date, and foundry.

Newspaper cuttings relating to the: Public Library, Museum and National Gallery of Victoria  1987, Library Council of Victoria, Melbourne, LTM 92 [microform]

Arranged year by year. Contains newspaper reports, journal articles and copies of publications relating to the history of the State Library, collections and statues. Check the appropriate year for references. For example, vol. 5-8, reel 2, for the year 1907 contains numerous articles about the purchase and installation of Jeanne d'Arc.

'Sculpture' Subject file - ask at La Trobe Information Centre Desk.

Contains copies of articles published in newspapers and other sources particularly relating to Petrus Spronk's sculpture.

‘SLV: statues, murals, paintings, etc. including self guided tour notes'
In-house file located at the La Trobe Information Centre Desk.

Numerous items including: copy of letter dated 1981 detailing the purchase of the two soldiers ‘Wipers' and ‘The Driver' from the Report of the Trustees of the Public Library, Museum and National Gallery of Victoria for 1936. Reference to an article in The times, 7 July 1926, announcing a gold medal from the Royal Society of British Sculptors awarded to Mr. C. S. Jagger' for his artillery memorial at Hyde Park corner. Also includes information on the statuary outside the Library, murals, busts, painting and other works of art and furniture on display in the Library in 1975; references to Melbourne statues in books and newspaper articles; 1937 references to ‘The Wipers' and ‘Driver' in The Argus newspaper.

Contains various unpublished pamphlets created by the State Library for the purpose of self guided heritage tours, such as: ‘Heritage guide: State Library of Victoria'; a brochure providing a potted history of the State Library and its heritage features; ‘Heritage Walk notes' compiled by State Library of Victoria Customer Programs in 1998; Notes on heritage features of the Library; ‘Self-guided heritage tour', compiled by Cathy Miller in 1995, covers the forecourt statues including ‘Architectural fragment' by Petrus Spronk, and the marble busts displayed in the foyer.
An article by John Feely, ‘Memory carved in stone monuments of Melbourne' from the Port of Melbourne quarterly, April-June 1954, pp. 31-38, and a ‘Self-guided introductory tour'.

See also the Timeline tab, above, for dates related to the purchase, installation and removal of the statues.

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Lions

The metal lions were installed in the forecourt in the early 1860s, positioned at the top of the central stairs, and were removed in 1924 due to their dilapidated state. They had been bought by Sir Redmond Barry in London in 1862. The Trustees of the Melbourne Public Library gave the lions to the Royal Zoological Society in February 1925. There is no record in the Zoo archives of where they were displayed or what became of them; anecdotal reports suggest that they were discarded during the big clean-up in the 1960s.

Allom, Lovell, Sanderson, Pty Ltd1985, State Library and Museum of Victoria buildings : conservation analysis, Melbourne, pp.52-55, and Appendix C 

Brief references to the bronze Lions. Appendix C gives 1924 as the year the lions were removed. However on page 55 it is incorrectly stated that the ‘badly corroded' lions were removed around the time of the installation of the Jagger bronzes of the ‘Wipers' and ‘The Driver' in 1937. 

The Argus, 27 November 1924, ‘Library lions to go'   p 12, [online] 

Brief reference to the proposed disposal of the metal lions located at the entrance to the Library.

Armstrong, Edmund La Touche, 1932, The book of the Public Library, Museums, and National Gallery of Victoria, 1906-1931, Melbourne, Trustees of the Public Library, Museums, and National Gallery of Victoria,  p 58  

Provides the following information: ‘...Two metal lions that had for very many years been on top of the steps of the Swanston street entrance had become so dilapidated that it was resolved to remove them, and they were handed over to the Royal Zoological Society. Sir Redmond Barry purchased these lions for a small sum in London in 1862...'

Armstrong, Edmund La Touche, 1906, The book of the Public Library, Museums, and National Gallery of Victoria 1856-1906, Melbourne, printed for the Trustees of the Public Library, Museums, and National Gallery of Victoria by Ford & Son,  p 13

‘...Early in the year 1862 Sir Redmond Barry left for England, to represent the colony at the great International Exhibition in London...'

Royal Melbourne Zoo minutes, December 1924:

'Two metal lions at the entrance to the library might be done away with, Mr Armstrong, secretary of the Public Library Trustees informed him; if zoo wants them, trustees said they could have them. [Director] Wilkie inspected them, several big cracks in the figures. Offer of metal lions accepted with thanks.

Royal Melbourne Zoo minutes, February 1925:

'Lions received from Public Library, dilapidated, but when position found, they can be fixed up.'

The following information (and the information from the Zoo minutes) have been supplied by Catherine de Courcy author of The Zoo Story (Ringwood, Vic., Penguin, 1995):

‘...Ernie Weber joined the Zoo in the 1960s as a keeper and retired in 1994 as senior curator. When I asked him about the lions before he retired, he vaguely recalled seeing two lion statues in very poor condition in the Zoo. He couldn't recall what became of them but thought they were probably thrown out during the big clean-up in the 60s...'

In-house file entitled: SLV: statues, murals, paintings, etc,' for brief reference to Library lions in ‘Notes for staff use, August 1975', which states:

‘In 1924, the two metal lions that had been for many years on the top of the Swanston Street entrance were so dilapidated that they were removed. Sir Redmond Barry had purchased them for a small sum in London in 1862'.

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Sir Redmond Barry

The statue of Sir Redmond Barry was erected by public subscription and unveiled on 23 August 1887. The statue was modelled by James Gilbert and completed by Percival Ball after Gilbert's death in 1885. When the Library's conservation department cleaned the statue, they measured it to be 2.97 metres tall and the plinth at 2.58 metres.

Armstrong, Edmund La Touche, 1906, The book of the Public Library, Museums, and National Gallery of Victoria, 1856-1906, Ford & Son, Melbourne, p 57

Historic press cuttings (HPC) , ‘Monuments' card 4, ask at La Trobe Information Centre desk

Copy of article from the Melbourne Times, 24 April 1974 entitled ‘Sir Redmond Barry statue - monument to foresight and sagacity'. This article details the background to the commission, the fund set up with Mr. O.R. Snowball as Secretary to purchase the work, and the deterioration of Gilbert's health. Snowball suggested a life insurance policy be taken out on Gilbert's life. This ensured the commission was passed on to Percival Ball for completion after Gilbert's death.

Illustrated Australian news, 5 September 1883, ‘Proposed memorial statue to the late Sir Redmond Barry', pp.1, 146.
Family History & Newspaper Room [microfilm]

Brief article and illustration of the proposed statue to be erected in memory of Sir Redmond Barry.

Lack, John, September/December 1987, ‘Obsequies for Sir Redmond Barry: a man for all seasons', Victorian historical journal vol 58, nos 3-4,  pp 38-46

Article includes transcript of speeches published in The Argus, 24 August 1887, p 5, on the occasion of the unveiling of the statue, an obituary published in The Argus, 24 November 1880 and a description of Redmond Barry's funeral.

Ridley, Ronald T, March 1995, 'The mysterious James Gilbert: the forgotten sculptor 1854', La Trobe Library journal,  vol 13, no 54,  pp18-32, [online]

Information about the sculptor James Gilbert and the statue of Sir Redmond Barry. 

Ridley, Ronald T, 1996, Melbourne's monuments, Melbourne University Press, Carlton, pp 91-93

Provides biographical information on Barry and information about the statue.

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St George and the Dragon

St George and the Dragon, by Sir Joseph Edgar Boehm (1834-1890), was purchased in 1888. It was originally placed in the centre of the entrance to the Library but was moved in 1907 to balance the newly acquired statue of Jeanne d'Arc.

Details of the bronze sculpture as measured by the Library's Conservation Department: 3.22m. height x 2.15m. width x 3.39m. depth. Plinth:2.20m. height. Purchased at Melbourne Centennial Exhibition, 1888.

The Age, 18 January 1907, p.4. Family History & Newspaper Room - on microfilm. Copy also available in reel 2, for 1907, p. 178 of Newspaper cuttings relating to the Public Library, Museum and National Gallery of Victoria , 1987 [microform], Library Council of Victoria, Melbourne (LTM 92).

The bronze statue has been moved from behind a large elm tree on the lawn in front of the library, to a freestone pedestal on the left-hand side as the visitor enters the library.

Carmody, Shane, The Naked Saint, Sir J. Edgar Boehm's St George and the Dragon, La Trobe Journal, No. 87, May 2011, pp. 116-135, [online]

A detailed account of the creation of the statue and how it was acquired by the Library.

Centennial International Exhibition (1888-1889 : Melbourne, Vic.), 1890 Official record of the Centennial International Exhibition, Melbourne, 1888-1889, Sands & McDougall, Melbourne

The statue was brought out from Europe and exhibited at the Melbourne Centennial International Exhibition in August 1888. It was purchased for 1000 pounds.

Melbourne (Vic.) Libraries. State Library of Victoria. Forecourt'
Local History File - ask at information desk for access.

Includes copies from an published 1997 ‘Conservation survey and treatment proposal' by International Conservation Services, of St George and the Dragon', Jeanne d'Arc' and the two gasoliers (lamp stands). Provides general description of each, inscriptions, dimensions, artist, date, and foundry.

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Jeanne d'Arc

The bronze statue of Jeanne d'Arc (Joan of Arc) by Emmanuel Fremiet, was acquired by the Felton Bequest in 1906. The unpacking and placement of the statue was completed on Monday 4 February 1907. The statue was selected and purchased not by the Library but by the director of the National Art Gallery of Victoria, Bernard Hall. (The Gallery was part of the the building complex, along with the Library and the Museum).

At the time several sculptures by the artist (Emmanual Fremiet) were considered, including his version of George and the Dragon.

The original, gilded bronze edition of Fremiet's Jeanne d'Arc was erected in the Place de Rivoli (now Place de Pyramides) in Paris in 1874, where it stands today.

Details of the Melbourne edition of the sculpture, as measured by the Library's Conservation Department: Sculpture:4.62m. height x 1.85m. width x 3.14m. depth. Plinth : 2.14m. height.

Purchased Felton Bequest, 1907.

The Argus,  1 February 1907, ‘Joan of Arc: Melbourne's new statue', p7, [online] Copy of this and other articles relating to the statue are available in reel. 2, for 1907, p.179 of Newspaper cuttings relating to the Public Library, Museum and National Gallery of Victoria [microform] Melbourne, Library Council of Victoria, 1987 (LTM 92).

A few days later another Argus article described the unpacking of the statue and offered much analysis.

Gott, Ted, autumn 2008,  'An iron maiden for Melbourne - the history and context of Emmanuel Frémiet's 1906 cast of Jeanne d'Arc', The La Trobe Journal, no 81, pp 53-68, [online]

The Herald, 29 January 1907,  ‘Joan of Arc: our new statue',

Family History & Newspaper Room - on microfilm. Copy also available in reel 2, for 1907, p. 178 of Newspaper cuttings relating to the Public Library, Museum and National Gallery of Victoria [microform], 1987, Melbourne, Library Council of Victoria (LTM 92).

Report of the arrival of the bronze statue at Port Melbourne. The container is too large to pass under the bridges that span the railway line to Flinders Street.

Herald-Sun, 1 July 1998, Arts and entertainment section, ‘Statue belies its Aussie connection', p 45
Family History & Newspaper Room - on microfilm

Fourteen local entries for a sculpture for the forecourt of the State Library of Victoria were rejected by the trustees of the National Gallery in favour of an overseas commission by French artist Emmanuel Fremiet. This caused much adverse public reaction at the time. The model for Joan of Arc was the wife of Melbourne painter John Peter Russell (Anna Maria Antonietta Mattiocco). (Note footnote 16 in Ted Gott article cited above - some scholars have questioned if Marianna modelled for this statue). Includes small colour photograph.

Historic Press Cuttings (HPC) ‘Monuments' Card 4.
Historic Press Cuttings - ask at La Trobe Information Centre desk

Copy of article by Alfred Phillips, ‘Fighters at the Library'. The Herald, 29 June 1968, (weekend magazine), p.30. Article discusses each of the statues and the plan to move St. George and Jeanne d'Arc to the Arts Centre on St. Kilda Road, their departure set to ‘break up a mixed company of fighters on the State Library front'. Includes reference to the model for Fremiet's statue, "Marianna Antoinetta Matiocco" (Anna Maria Antonietta Mattiocco), the wife of an Australian artist, John Russell. (Note footnote 16 in Ted Gott article cited above - some scholars have questioned if Marianna modelled for this statue). Includes drawing of Joan of Arc statue.

The Leader (Melbourne), 9 and 16 February 1907, p. 34 (same page number for each date).
Family History & Newspaper Room - on microfilm

References to the erection of the statue.

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Royal statues

Four marble statues of:

  • Queen Victoria
  • Prince Albert
  • the Prince of Wales (Edward VII)
  • the Princess of Wales (Alexandra of Denmark)

were presented to the National Gallery in January 1879. At this time the National Gallery was co-located on the same site as the Library, on Swanston Street. The statues were sculpted by Charles Summers and presented by Sir W J Clarke.

Sculpture presented to the National Gallery by the Hon. W. J. ClarkeIAN21/02/79/25

By 1911 the statues were inside the entrance hall, and can be seen in a photograph in the illustrated catalogue of the National Gallery.

In this photo, from about 1913, the statues can be seen under the Library's portico:

Detail from Elevated view of the Melbourne Public Library, H2013.198

In a newspaper article from 1928 the statues are referred to as 'adorn[ing] the vestibule of the Public Library' (The Argus, 1 December 1928, p 3 supplement).

In the early 20th century the Queen Victoria and Prince Albert statues were placed on permanent loan to the Royal Agricultural Society. They are currently situated at the Melbourne Showgrounds.

In 1939 the statue of the Prince of Wales was relocated next to the King Edward Sailors’ Rest in Geelong. It is now on the foreshore Beach Reserve, Eastern Beach, at the corner of Moorabool Street. In 1999 the statue was beheaded by vandals. The location of the head is unknown.

The statue of Princess Alexandra is now located in the Jack Shiel Gardens in the town of Alexandra, Victoria. The statue 'was relocated to Alexandra in 1939 [...] In 1994 the statue was unveiled under a new colonnade, which was financed under the Centennial Awards' (source).

The Argus, 10 January 1879, 'Presentation to the National Gallery', p 6

The Argus, 25 May 1939, 'Presentation statue', p 13

Vaughan, Gerard, 6 January 2013, 'The cult of the queen empress: royal portraiture in colonial Victoria', Art journal, National Gallery of Victoria.

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Wipers and The Driver

The First World War commemorative statues of soldiers by Charles Sargeant Jagger were erected in front of the Library in 1937. Replicas of military statues in London's Hyde Park, they were relocated to the Shrine of Remembrance in February 1998.

The Age, 10 December 1997, 'New battle may make old soldiers march again', p C3 (metro section), Family History & Newspaper Room - on microfilm

Article written prior to the removal of the statues to the Shrine of Remembrance. Two of the five statues in the forecourt of the State Library may be moved to the Shrine of Remembrance. The two are 'The Driver' and 'Wipers', both casts of statues by sculptor Charles Jagger. The statues were actually moved in mid-February 1998. Includes two photographs.

The Age, 11 April 1990,  ‘Statues' removal raises disturbing questions', Family History & Newspaper Room - on microfilm.

Copy also available Local History File entitled ‘Melbourne (Vic.) Libraries. State Library of Victoria. Forecourt'

Letter written by Andrew Field, Kew expresses his concern over the removal of the two statues from the forecourt.

Allom, Lovell, Sanderson Pty Ltd, 1985, State Library and Museum of Victoria buildings: conservation analysis, Melbourne, Vic., Allom, Lovell, Sanderson Pty Ltd,  pp 52-55 

The history of the forecourt and its design is discussed on pages 52- 55, and reference is made to the Library statuary on page 55. 

The Argus, 11 February 1937,  ‘Jagger statues for Melbourne', p 12 [online]

Illustration and short article about the replicas from London.

The Argus30 March 1937,  Jagger's bronzes', p 6, [online]

Letter protesting about damage to statues and the need for protection.

Newnham, W H, 1985, Melbourne, biography of a city, rev ed, Melbourne, Hill of Content,  p 192

Phillips, Alfred29 June 1968, ‘Fighters at the Library', The Herald,  p 30, Family History & Newspaper Room - on microfilm.

Article discusses each of the statues and the plan to move St. George and Joan of Arc to the Arts Centre on St. Kilda Road, their departure set to ‘break up a mixed company of fighters on the State Library front'.

‘SLV: statues, murals, paintings, etc'
In-house file - ask at La Trobe Information Centre desk

Numerous references to the Jagger statues are found in this file, including details regarding the purchase of the two statues for the gallery, sourced from the Report of the Trustees of the Public Library, Museum and National Gallery of Victoria for 1936.

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Architectural Fragment

Petrus Spronk's bluestone sculpture entitled ‘Architectural Fragment' was commissioned by the Melbourne City Council in 1992 and installed on the pavement outside the State Library on 12 January 1993. A series of images showing the installation process are available to view online.

Each of the three items below are available in the in-house Subject file headed ‘Sculpture' - ask at information desk for access.

The Age, 12 January 1993, pp 1, 4
Family History & Newspaper Room - on microfilm

Discusses installation of the bluestone sculpture outside the Library on Swanston Street Walk during 11 and 12 January 1993.

Ketchell, Misha, ‘Interesting but what is it?' The city weekly 1-7 October 1998, pp 6-7

Discusses ten notable street sculptures, including ‘Architectural fragment'. Article with colour photographs.

Melbourne report, ‘A little matter of interpretation', February 1993, pp 2-3

Includes the cost of the work.

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Lieutenant-Governor La Trobe

Charles Joseph La Trobe was one of the Library's founders and the first Lieutenant Governor following the proclamation of the Colony of Victoria.

Peter Corlett OAM was commissioned by the La Trobe Society to sculpt a statue to celebrate the National Trust's Year of La Trobe. It was unveiled on 21 November 2006 by the Governor of Victoria, Professor David de Kretser AC.

Special guests included sculptor; the Hon John Cain, President of the Library Board of Victoria; Rodney Davidson AO, OBE, President of the La Trobe Society; Charles La Trobe Blake, the great-great-grandson of Charles Joseph La Trobe; Dr Dianne Reilly, then the Library's La Trobe Librarian.

The 3m-high bronze is on the Library's north lawn, adjacent to La Trobe Street. It depicts him reading the proclamation of separation and looking towards the city he helped shape.

The Age, 3 April 2006,  'La Trobe, a man of huge stature - according to Corlette (sic) and co', Metro, p 18

Interview with sculptor Peter Corlett

Clemente, Caroline, Spring 2007, 'Thomas Woolner's Portrait Medallion of C. J. La Trobe' in La Trobe Journal, no 80, pp 52-64 [online]

Includes brief details about the making of this statue on page 58.

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Murals

In 1922 the Trustees announced a competition for a 'Mural War Memorial'. Harold Septimus Power was awarded the commission. His mural, 'War', is located above the entrance to the Queen's Hall and depicts Australian soldiers in the  First World War on the Western Front and Palestine. It was formally unveiled on 12 February 1924.

Napier Waller's mural ‘Peace After Victory', commissioned by the Trustees in 1929, is situated above the entrance to the Domed Reading Room.

State Library of Victoria, 1995, The Queen's Hall and the murals: historical notes 

Brief history of the Queen's Hall and the murals.

SLV: statues, murals, paintings, etc including self guided tour notes

In-house file located at the La Trobe Information Centre Desk.  Ask staff for access.

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Images

Redmond Barry H2010.25/3
Redmond Barry, H2010.25/3

 

George and the dragon  H2010.25/1
George and the dragon, H2010.25/1

 

Jeanne d'Arc H2010.25/2
Jeanne d'Arc, H2010.25/2

 

Wipers 2008.11/2030
Wipers, H2008.11/2030

 

The Driver, H37350
The Driver, H37350

James Joyce Seat of Learning

The world's second James Joyce Seat of Learning was unveiled at the State Library of Victoria's forecourt on 26 August 2004. Christened by Irish writer Colm Toibin, who was in town for the Melbourne Writer's Festival, the chair incorporates a brick from James Joyce's house in Ireland.

The seat was designed by Rick Dalmau of Dalmau Designs. The installation of the seat was organised by Mary Dalmau of Reader's Feast bookstore. She was interested by Dubliner Brendan Kilty’s quest to preserve some of James Joyce’s house, ‘Drumcondra’. After purchasing 18 truckloads of bricks when the Joyce house was demolished some years ago, Kilty was inspired to create Joyce Seats of Learning around the world – each incorporating one of the bricks. The first chair was unveiled in Kuala Lumpur.

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Dromkeen sculptures

The Dromkeen Scholastic Collection of Children’s Book Art consists of approximately 7500 original artworks and illustrations from many of Australia’s best-loved children’s books.

Southern side of the forecourt:

The Bunyip of Berkeley's Creek
Author: Jenny Wagner
Illustrator and sculptor: Ron Brooks
Cast by Meridian Foundry
Installed on the Library forecourt 17 October 2012

Northern side of the forecourt:

Mr Lizard and Gumnut Baby
Author and illustrator: May Gibbs
Sculptor: Smiley Williams
Cast by Meridian Foundry
Installed on the Library forecourt 17 October 2012

Outside main entrance to La Trobe (Dome) Reading Room:

Memorial sculpture honouring Joyce and Court Oldmeadow, founders of Dromkeen
Sculptor: Tessa Wallis.
Includes characters from Australian children's stories including Koala Lou, Wombat Divine, Shy the Platypus. Also features a dragon which represents the children's Dromkeen Dragons club.
Originally unveiled at the Dromkeen Dinner on 15 March 2003.
Placed on public display at the Library on 12 March 2013.

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