At the Musée des 30 années (Museum of the 1930s) on the outskirts of Paris I came across the above maquettes. The two sculptures are each about the size of a suitcase. I stopped to look at them because they’re beautifully streamlined examples of Art Deco styling. Then I glanced at the information on the plaque and was surprised to read they were working models for a proposed monument to the defence of the Suez Canal. What monument? What defence? So, of course, I went straight to Google and it transpires the monument was actually built, and there it stands, forty metres high, the height of a tower block, beside the Suez Canal near Ismailia. To my embarrassment, the author of guidebooks to Egypt for Lonely Planet and National Geographic, I’ve never seen it. Never even knew of its existence.
It’s the work of Raymond Delamarre (1890–1986), a French sculptor, known particularly for his war memorials, and the French architect Michel Roux-Spitz. Together they won a competition organised in 1925 by the Suez Canal Company to produce a monument celebrating the force of British, Egyptian, French and Italian troops who in 1915 repulsed an attack on the Canal by the Ottoman Turkish army. The monument takes the form of two huge winged angels in rose granite placed at the base of two pylons. The angels carry flaming torches and stand, in Delamarre’s words as ‘guardians of the country’s destiny’. The monument is designed be seen by ships passing through the Canal. Its inauguration took place on 3 February 1930. A special medal was struck to celebrate the event, designed by Delamarre himself.
That makes a second reason to head back out to Ismailia next time I’m in Egypt (the first being George’s restaurant, of course).
You can find out much more about the project here (in French but with some great images). Click here for a post on that other piece of impressive French sculpture originally also intended for the Suez Canal.