About this artwork

This drawing is one of Playfair’s presentation proposals for the new façade of the Royal Institution. He designed the original building in 1822, but by 1832 it was in need of extension. Playfair’s plans for the expansion included additional ornamentation, such as the statue above the pediment of Pallas Athena, Greek goddess of wisdom. She was a suitable embellishment for a learned institution, but this choice also shows how Playfair was a true devotee of the Greek Revival style. Athena was the goddess for whom the Parthenon temple in Athens was built: the touchstone of perfection for all architects. Here, she was to crown a temple to the arts. This design for the statue was never realised, and in 1844 a sculpture of Queen Victoria dressed as Britannia was installed.

William Henry Playfair

William Henry Playfair