Friday 20 November 2009

Nothing too much trouble

Yesterday on my way to a secondhand bookshop
in the Charing Cross Road,
I took a quick photo of the revolving globe atop the London Coliseum.
Like so much of the Victorian architecture in the city,
it is massive yet invisible, shouting yet silent.
It was only this evening when I uploaded the picture 
that I began to marvel
at the staggering effort and expense that produced such elaborate detailing,
much of it well above eye level.

The English Heritage listing details make an 
intoxicating shopping list of architectural folderols:

The Coliseum Theatre (English National Opera) - II* Grand theatre.
1902-04 by Frank Matcham , originally built for (Sir) Oswald Stoll.

Channelled terracotta facing
exuberant Free Baroque ambitious design
richly decorated interiors
vast and grandiose auditorium
asymmetrical facade
lofty tower 
triple arcaded entrances
polished red granite columns
finely executed decorative woodwork
2 storeyed voussoired archivolt
arched entrance
elaborately architraved windows
Ionic colonnaded shallow loggia storey
massively bracketed balconies
3 pedimented aedicules
entablature crowning balustrade
quoin pilasters
 richly embellished caps  
tiled dome with lantern
balconied Venetian window 
elaborate cornice enriched with cartouches,  
Ionic peristyle with figure sculpture at corners 
pedestalledball finial drum with oculi 
stepped dome 
large metal and glass globe
lavish foyer
marble facings
wealth of eclectic classical detail  
Byzantine opulence
squat columns 
domed canopies
Ionic-columned pairs of 2 tiered orchestra boxes
pedimented frames surmounted by sculptural groups
lion-drawn chariots
great, semicircular, blocked architrave proscenium arch
cartouche-trophy keystone
elaborated bays
decorated piers
classical relief frieze
massive coupled brackets
cyclorama track

The Theatres of London; Mander and Mitchenson.

and this in more restrained prose from The Era Review 17th December 1904:

From here the tower assumes different outlines, formed by trusses and niches, and the introduction of sculptured lions; the whole is carried up, getting less in diameter as the top is approached,
when the eight figures in the shape of cupids support
a large iron revolving globe,
to which is attached large electric letters spelling 'Coliseum'.
The globe is made to revolve,
and this artistic advertisement can be seen for many miles.
A further novelty in advertising is the electric device along the front,
which gives the nature of the performance taking place
at the time during the evening.

A veranda covers the pavement in front of the principal entrance,
formed of glass and iron, 
a feature being the way in which the glass is curved in shapes,
and the handsome panelled glass in the fascia,
the whole when lighted up by electricity forming
a very attractive feature in St. Martin's Lane.

What self-belief. What chutzpah.

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