Queen Victoria Building sculptures (east and west)

Related to City Art
Installed 1899
A marble sculpture of two seated male figures at the feet of a standing female figure, surrounded by symbolic objects including a ship. The statue is on top of the facade of a sandstone building.
3 figures, 1 standing 2 seated combine to make a large main sculpture made from Sicilian marble, approximately 4.5 m high
Side view of large sandstone façade of QVB with large marble sculpture being the centre focal point

Allegorical groups of marble figures adorn the eastern and western façades of the Queen Victoria Building.

Artist: William P MacIntosh 

Artwork description

Two statue groups by sculptor William P MacIntosh were commissioned in 1897 during the construction of the Queen Victoria Market Building. They are located on the eastern and western façades of the building’s central arches.

The eastern group, located on the building’s George Street frontage, features a lightly draped female figure flanked by 2 semi-nude males. The western group, located on the building’s York Street frontage, features a male figure flanked by 2 draped females. The statues stand around 4.5m high and are made from Sicilian marble.

In his submission to Council in January 1897, MacIntosh outlined his specifications for the 2 allegorical groups of statues.

It was claimed in a 1984 article in the Sydney Morning Herald that the male figures in these groups were modelled on the body of Percy Cavill, one of Australia’s first swimming champions.

“Design No. 1 … Standing upon a raised pedestal in centre is a lightly draped female figure Representing the controlling Powers or Guardian Genius of the city, with the sword and scales of ‘Justice’ in one hand and the scroll of ‘wisdom’ in the other. On her head is the Civic Crown and Waratah wreath, at her feet a shield bearing the City Crest …’.

“On her right hand is seated a semi-nude muscular male figure representing ‘Labour’ as applied to the productive elements and to Industry with the appropriate symbols grouped around him. Vis-the wheat, ram, fruit, and beehive. On his head is a wreath of Olive – a symbol of peace …’.

On the other side is a corresponding male figure also wreathed with Olive, and representing ‘Commerce’ and ‘Exchange’, by his side a ship in full sail, in his left hand a bag of money and resting his right upon the ledger book’.”

– William P MacIntosh, describing the eastern statue group

“On a raised pedestal which is ornamented with the rising sun of Australia stands a lightly draped male figure holding aloft a device of the ‘fasces’ or bound rods symbol of ‘Union’ in the form of a cross ornamented with 5 stars of the Southern Cross, surrounded by a wreath of Waratah – the whole symbolising ‘United Australia’ …

“On the right is a seated semi-nude female figure representing ‘Peace’ holding a palm branch at her feet – symbols of ‘Literature’ and ‘Science’ …

“On the other side is a corresponding female figure representing ‘Plenty’ holding the ‘Cornucopia’ and showing the symbols of the ‘attendant Arts’ …” 

– William P MacIntosh, describing the western statue group


MacIntosh was born in Scotland in 1857 and arrived in Sydney in 1880.

He taught sculpture at East Sydney Technical College and from 1880–1882 studied at the Sydney Subject Mechanic Schools of Arts, where he received the inaugural Students Prize in 1882. MacIntosh was commissioned by the Parkes Government to provide carved sandstone pillars and sculptures for the Sydney Museum of Applied Arts and Sciences and the Lands Department Building.

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