What is this baffling, almost-odd object the royal crowd is gawking at?


Prince William and a group of royal enthusiasts are riding along a stretch of the Thames River near Stoke Mandeville for an event to mark the centenary of the birth of Queen Victoria. Sitting on the opposite bank — 12 feet or so off the water — is an object that has gathered a fair amount of attention from passersby.

“We don’t know whether the object is a relic from a once-great empire or an investment proposal,” one person said as he walked by. Others wondered whether it represented a prophecy of the future, as in a religious epiphany, or whether it was a miniature of a person, an image of Richard III, or some kind of artifact. Others laughed and pointed at it as if it were not significant, oblivious to its larger significance.

The object was a miniature of what appeared to be a man wearing an overcoat with a hat on top, with two pants positioned as if to represent legs. It is a bronze sculpture called “Richard III” by Sir Roger Hiorns, the noted artist, who used a pneumatically-delivered nitrous oxide spray to create the piece.

When Hiorns was asked in 2013 about the object, he said that he came up with the image after reading a historical report that Richard had been photographed with his right hand on his right hip, making him appear as if he was “completely and utterly in command of himself.”

“My own iconography,” Hiorns said, “is of a grandfather who would dismiss the fawning and tell his grandson to put away the gold watch and give it to the barber.”

According to a biography on the Royal Collection website, Hiorns was born in 1968 in Durham, England. He graduated from the Royal College of Art in 2000 and has been a lecturer at the school since 1994. He was also the founding director of the Commerzbank Institute for the Environment and Society and a visiting professor at Oxford University. He was a member of the Cultural Olympiad, the group of artists and architects who were brought on to produce art for the opening and closing ceremonies of the 2012 Olympics.

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