Or are you looking for Search the Archives?

Please complete the form to email this item.

The Eagle Slayer

  • Object:

    Statue

  • Place of origin:

    Ironbridge (made)

  • Date:

    ca. 1851 (cast)

  • Artist/Maker:

    Bell, John, born 1811 - died 1895 (sculptor)
    Coalbrookdale Company (casters)

  • Materials and Techniques:

    Cast iron, painted

  • Museum number:

    A.28-1959

  • Gallery location:

    On display at Coalbrookdale Museum of Iron, Ironbridge

The Eagle Slayer was made in 1851 by the popular Victorian neo-classical sculptor, John Bell. The sculpture is made of cast iron, a material previously only used for industrial use. The sculpture shows a shepherd who, upon discovering one of his sheep has been killed by an eagle, fires an arrow and kills the eagle.

The Eagle Slayer was originally displayed at The Great Exhibition in 1851. It stood outside the original V&A building when it was the South Kensington Museum. The Eagle Slayer was once again reunited with this building when it was brought to Bethnal Green in 1927.

The sculpture is based on one of Aesop's fables: unwittingly we give to our adversaries the means of our own destruction. The eagle has just slain a lamb and the shepherd boy is exacting his revenge, he finds a feather dropped by the eagle. From the feather the boy fashions the most accurate arrow to shoot the bird on its return.

Physical description

The sculpture depicts the tale of a shepherd who had just released an arrow from his bow at an eagle which had just killed one of his lambs.

Place of Origin

Ironbridge (made)

Date

ca. 1851 (cast)

Artist/maker

Bell, John, born 1811 - died 1895 (sculptor)
Coalbrookdale Company (casters)

Materials and Techniques

Cast iron, painted

Dimensions

Height: 2560 mm, Width: 1320 mm, Depth: 1660 mm including bow, Depth: 650 mm not including bow, Weight: 400 to 450 kg

Object history note

The Eagle Slayer was made in 1851 by the popular Victorian neo-classical sculptor, John Bell. The sculpture is made of cast iron, a material previously only used for industrial use. The sculpture shows a shepherd who, upon discovering one of his sheep has been killed by an eagle, fires an arrow and kills the eagle.

The Eagle Slayer was originally displayed at The Great Exhibition in 1851. It was presented to the Exhibition's commissioner's at its conclusion, it resided for some years at Kensington Palace. It later stood outside the original V&A building when it was the South Kensington Museum. The Eagle Slayer was once again reunited with this building when it was brought to Bethnal Green in 1927.

In 2004 the sculpture was removed for urgent conservation work. Research revealed how The Eagle Slayer would have originally looked in 1851. Old paint layers were removed from the statue's surface and the rust damage was treated. Close analysis of the paint layers told us the original sculpture had been painted white to imitate Carrara marble. The statue had been painted black to reflect the late Victorian fashion. The Eagle Slayer today has been repainted to closely match the original white colour.

In 2017, the statue was placed on long-term loan to its place of making, now the Coalbrookdale Museum of Iron in Ironbridge, Shropshire.

Historical significance: The first statue made of cast iron

Historical context note

John Bell first exhibited a plaster version of The Eagle Slayer at the Royal Academy in 1837, this was shown again at Westminster Hall in 1844. A marble version was commissioned by Earl Fitzwilliam for Wentworth Woodhouse. A version cast in bronze was shown at the Great Exhibition, 1851, in addition to this one of iron.

Descriptive line

Statue, 'The Eagle Slayer', cast iron, John Bell, England, about 1851

Bibliographic References (Citation, Note/Abstract, NAL no)

British Sculpture 1470 to 2000, A concise catalogue of the collection at the Victoria and Albert Museum by Diane Bilbley with Marjorie Trusted

Materials

Cast iron

Techniques

Casting; Painting

Subjects depicted

Figures; Revenge; Archers; Men; Death; Lambs; Shepherds

Categories

Sculpture; Great Exhibition; Myths & Legends; History of the V&A

Production Type

Unique

Collection

Museum of Childhood

Large image request

Please confirm you are using these images within the following terms and conditions, by acknowledging each of the following key points:

Please let us know how you intend to use the images you will be downloading.