Allegories of Art and Industry
The monumental, largely symmetrical female figures complement the Edwardian Renaissance style of the building. The allegorical figures probably represent Art and Industry, considering their positions on each side of the Birmingham Coat of Arms; on the right, the woman holds a palette, while the figure on the left, which should conventionally be male, holds an unidentified mechanical object behind which is a globe.
The figures, placed either side of the Birmingham Coat of Arms shield, decorate the Great Charles Street entrance to the Feeney Gallery extension which was built as a result of a bequest of £50,000 for that purpose by John Frederick Feeney in 1912. The extension was designed by the architects H.V. Ashley and Winton Newman, the first section being completed in 1912 and discussed in the Architectural Review of July. (1) At this time the Great Charles Street entrance was not finished. The Minutes of the Museum and Art Gallery Committee noted the satisfaction at the completion of the buildings in 1917, (2) after interruption by the First World War; Pevsner gives the final date of completion as 1919. (3) Attributed to Bloye by one of his students, these figures were thus produced at the beginning of his teaching career in Birmingham and reflect the training he received at the Royal College of Art a few years earlier, pre-dating his studies with Eric Gill.
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