The Victoria Memorial (Victoria Memorial Hall) is a large marble building in Kolkata (Calcutta), West Bengal, India which was built between 1906 and 1921. It is dedicated to the memory of Queen Victoria (1819–1901) and is now a museum and tourist destination under the auspices of the Ministry of Culture. The Memorial lies on the Maidan (grounds) by the bank of the Hooghly river, near Jawaharlal Nehru Road.
In January 1901, on the death of Queen Victoria, George Curzon, 1st Marquess Curzon of Kedleston and Viceroy of India, suggested the creation of a fitting memorial. He proposed the construction of a grand building with a museum and gardens.
The Victoria Memorial was funded by many Indian states, individuals of the British Raj and the British government in London. The princes and people of India responded generously to Curzon's appeal for funds and the total cost of construction of this monument amounting to one crore, five lakhs of rupees, was entirely derived from their voluntary subscriptions.
The Victoria Memorial's architect was William Emerson (1843–1924), president of the Royal Institute of British Architects. The design is in the Indo-Saracenic revivalist style. This style uses a mixture of British and Mughal elements as well as Venetian, Egyptian, Deccani and Islamic architectural influences. The building is 338 feet (103 m) by 228 feet (69 m) and rises to a height of 184 feet (56 m). It is constructed of white Makrana marble. The gardens of the Victoria Memorial were designed by Lord Redesdale and David Prain. Emerson's assistant, Vincent J. Esch designed the bridge of the north aspect and the garden gates.
The construction of the Victoria Memorial was delayed by Curzon's departure from India in 1905 with a subsequent loss of local enthusiasm for the project and by the need for testing of the foundations. The Victoria Memorial's foundation stone was set in 1906 and the building opened in 1921. The work of construction was entrusted to Messrs. Martin & Co. of Calcutta. Work on the superstructure began in 1910. After 1947, when India gained independence, additions were made.
External decorative features
Atop the central dome of the Victoria Memorial is the 16 ft (4.9 m) figure of the Angel of Victory. Surrounding the dome are allegorical sculptures including Art, Architecture, Justice, and Charity and above the North Porch are Motherhood, Prudence and Learning.
The Victoria Memorial has a number of galleries, 25 in all. These include the royal gallery, the national leaders gallery, the portrait gallery, central hall, the sculpture gallery, the arms and armoury gallery and the newer, Calcutta gallery. The Victoria Memorial has the largest single collection of the works of Thomas Daniell (1749–1840) and his nephew, William Daniell (1769–1837).
The Victoria Memorial also has a collection of rare and antiquarian books such as the illustrated works of William Shakespeare, the Arabian Nights and the Rubaiyat by Omar Khayyam as well as books about kathak dance and thumri music by Wazid Ali Shah. However, the galleries and their exhibitions, the programmatic elements of the Memorial do not compete with the purely architectural spaces or voids.