Sir Robert Peel(1788-1850)
William Behnes (?1791 - 1864)
Bronze on a Grey Aberdeen granite base, with a shaft of red
Woodhouse Moor, Leeds
This greater than life-size (8' 6" tall) statue shows Peel "in an attitude he often assumed when addressing the House of Commons" ("Notes of the Month"). It is often said to have been the first monument to be erected to him, but was antedated by just two months by one in Salford, by Matthew Noble, which has since been removed and sold into private hands. Behnes's statue may, however, have been the first to show a subject completely in contemporary dress — Noble's figure is adorned with a "pseudo-classical robe" ("Sir Robert Peel"). Sculptors had previously depicted well-known personages in garter robes, legal robes etc, but to show them entirely as their contemporaries would have seen them was something new. The change related to the whole issue of how far the subject should be idealised. Peel himself would most likely have approved of this kind of more realistic treatment. Benedict Read quotes his objection to John Gibson's elegantly draped statue of William Huskisson in Pimlico Gardens, London: "It is very like Huskisson," Peel had told the sculptor, "but you have given a grandeur of look to the figure which did not belong to him" (173). Not that there would have been any such problem with Peel, as he was tall and handsome with a fine bearing, and robes would not have misled future generations.
Text by Jacqueline Banerjee 2010