Pedimental sculptures in Canada

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
Over-pedimental figure with horses, Maisonneuve Public Bath and Gymnasium, Montreal, 1916, sculptor Arthur Dubord

Pedimental sculptures are sculptures within the frame of a pediment on the exterior of a building, some examples of which can be found in Canada. Pedimental sculpture poses special challenges to sculptors: the triangular composition limits the choices for figures or ornament at the ends, and the sculpture must be designed to be viewed both from below and from a distance.


As with the ancient Greeks, and the Roman architects and sculptors who followed them, North American artists had two different structural approaches creating pedimental sculpture. They are either freestanding statues that stand on the bed (the ledge or cornice that creates the bottom of the pediment), or they can be relief sculpture, attached to the back wall of the pediment.[citation needed][1]

Compositionally, the restrictions imposed by both the physical triangular shape of a pediment, and the traditional themes that are usually employed for the subject matter, are, according to Ernest Arthur Gardner, "as exactly regulated as that of a sonnet or a Spenserian stanza: the artist has liberty only in certain directions and must not violate the laws of rhythm".[2]

The Golden Dog[edit]

Le Chien d'Or (c.1688), Edifice Louis S. St.-Laurent, Quebec City, in 2020

Perhaps the most famous pedimental sculpture in Quebec is Le Chien d'Or (c.1688) in Quebec City.[3] The gray limestone relief panel depicts a dog gnawing a bone,[4] a metaphor for nursing a grudge.

Timothée Roussel (c.1639-1700), a French immigrant and surgeon, was a Quebec City landowner in New France,[4] and Jean Normand was his neighbor.[3] The two bickered over right of passage across Normand's land, and Roussel won in court over Normand in 1682 and 1683.[3] The men eventually came to blows, and wound up in court again in 1686.[3] The court record noted that Normand's son Joseph had killed Roussel's dog.[3]

Two years later, Roussel built a house on Buade Street, and affixed the bas relief panel over his front door.[4] It featured a menacing inscription:
"I am a dog that gnaws his bone / I couch and gnaw it all alone / A time will come, which is not yet / When I'll bite him by whom I'm bit." (Translation by William Kirby, 1877.)[5]: 116 

Merchant Nicolas Jacquin, dit Philibert[6] bought the house from Roussel's heirs in 1734, and greatly expanded it.[7] The merchant was murdered in 1748.[8] Philibert's house was later converted into a coffeehouse,[7] was the meeting place for Freemasons from 1775 to 1800,[7] and served as the city's post office from 1845 to 1871.[7] The house was demolished for construction of a large Second Empire post office building, completed in 1872.[9] Roussel's panel was mounted high above its side entrance.[7]

Author William Kirby made the relief panel the centerpiece of his 1877 historical novel The Golden Dog.[5] The lead character was Philibert's son, who tracks down his father's killer and avenges the murder. The novel helped to make Le Chien d'Or famous, but also popularized the urban legend that the relief panel was erected as a threat to Philibert's murderer.[3]

The post office building was expanded and remodeled in a Beaux-Arts style in 1913.[9] The then-225-year-old relief was relocated to a more prominent location, a segmental pediment over the building's new entrance porch.[10]

Manitoba Legislative Building[edit]

Manitoba Pediment (1921), Manitoba Legislative Building, Winnipeg, Albert Hodge, sculptor

The 1911-1912 British-Empire-wide design competition for the Manitoba Legislative Building in Winnipeg had 67 entrants, and was won by Scottish architect Frank Worthington Simon.[11] He chose Scottish sculptor Albert Hodge to design its sculptured main pediment.[12] Hodge died in 1918 at age 42, three years prior to the building's completion. Piccirilli Brothers of New York City carved Hodge's pedimental figures in limestone.[11]

The pediment group which was modelled by the late Albert Hodge, of London, attracts attention first by its conspicuous situation as well as by its artistic quality. In judging such a group it must be borne in mind that the height above the eye, its peculiar confining frame and the necessities of its composition make it one of the most difficult of sculptural problems. Mr. Hodge, however, has most successfully developed his subject, filling the outer acute angles of the pediment as well as the high apex, the composition being balanced on either side and culminating at the centre. The female figure of Manitoba sits full front in the middle, and to the left there are three distinct groups, connected and related to the central figure by sentiment and gesture. In the corner Enterprise beckons the workers to the Land of Promise. Next there is a finely modelled bull led by Europa typifying the emigration from Europe, and between this group and Manitoba, there are a father, mother and child—the new family in the new world. On the opposite side of the angle are two figures clasping a jar whence issues a stream of water fertilizing the earth—the confluence of the Red and Assiniboine rivers. Next is a group of ploughmen and horses, tilling the soil, balancing the Bull-and-Europa group. Between these and Manitoba is a group of a man and a woman bringing the fruits of the soil, balancing the family group. Thus are expressions and balance complete, scale maintained, and the space well filled.
Mr. Hodge's work is also seen in the two sphinxes, representing Wisdom and Knowledge, placed on either side of the main pediment, and in the group of two figures, personifying, respectively, Peace and War, above the east and west pediments.[11]

Pedimental sculptures[edit]

Building Province Location Image Sculpture Sculptor Architect Installed Medium / Notes
Alberta Legislature Building Alberta Edmonton; 10800 97 Avenue NW 2010-365-174 Play in the Pool or Pass Laws - (4728844081).jpg central crest incorporating provincial shield tbd Allan Merrick Jeffers and Richard Blakey 1913
2011 Alberta Legislature Building 03.jpg
Alberta Legislative Building:
Bank of Montreal, Calgary branch Alberta Calgary; 8th Avenue and 1st Street SW Bank Montreal calgary.jpg version of the bank's coat of arms tbd Kenneth Rea[13] 1932 Listed on the Canadian Register of Historic Places[14]
Merchants' Bank of Canada, Victoria branch British Columbia Victoria; 1225 Douglas Street Merchants Bank of Canada, Victoria, British Columbia, Canada 10.jpg Bank of Montreal coat of arms tbd Francis M. Rattenbury, architect[15]

Honeyman & Curtis,
1922 expansion[16]

Merchants Bank of Canada, Victoria, British Columbia, Canada 01.jpg
Built by the Merchants' Bank of Canada in 1907.
Bank of Montreal purchased the building in 1922, and expanded it, adding a pedimental sculpture of the BOM coat of arms.
Listed on the Canadian Register of Historic Places[17]
Manitoba Legislative Building[18] Manitoba Winnipeg; 450 Broadway Queen Victoria in front of the Manitoba Legislative Assembly – Winnipeg.jpg enthroned central figure of Manitoba, figures representing the Red River and the Assiniboine River at far right Albert Hodge, sculptor
Piccirilli Brothers (New York City), carvers[19]
Frank Worthington Simon and Septimus Warwick 1920 Manitoba Legislative Building:
Parliamentwinnipeg manitoba.jpg

Listed on the Canadian Register of Historic Places[20]
Winnipeg Law Courts Building Manitoba Winnipeg; 391 Broadway Winnipeg Law Courts P1040654.jpg blindfolded Justice with sword and scales, flanked by two figures tbd Victor W. Horwood[21] 1916 Horwood (1878-1939) was provincial government architect
Pediment sculpture commission was won by open competition[22]
Listed on the Canadian Register of Historic Places[23]
New Brunswick Legislative Building New Brunswick Fredericton; 706 Queen Street New Brunswick Legislative Building- Fredericton- New Brunswick-20170718.jpg central shield unknown James C. Dumaresq 1882 Listed on the Canadian Register of Historic Places[24]
Colonial Building Newfoundland and Labrador St. John's; Military Road Colonial Building Newfoundland August 2012 5.JPG lion and unicorn, in a version of the Royal coat of arms of the United Kingdom unknown James Purcell 1847
Colonial Building:
Listed on the Canadian Register of Historic Places[25]
Bank of Montreal, Sydney branch Nova Scotia Sydney; 175 Charlotte Street Sydney (6579271377).jpg central shield tbd Sir Andrew Taylor 1901 Twin pediments on north and west facades, carved from olive green sandstone
Listed on the Canadian Register of Historic Places[26]
Province House Nova Scotia Halifax; 1726 Hollis Street Province House (41247624134).jpg lion and unicorn, in a version of the Royal coat of arms of the United Kingdom unknown John Merrick 1819 Province House:
Province House, Halifax (3609681508).jpg

Listed on the Canadian Register of Historic Places[27]
Bank of Montreal, Cambridge branch Ontario Cambridge (Galt); 44 Main Street (at Water) Bank of Montreal building Cambridge Ontario 2012.jpg central shield in low relief tbd Hogel & Davis 1919 Built by the Merchants' Bank of Canada
Bank of Montreal, Hamilton branch Ontario Hamilton; James and Main BMO Hamilton.jpg Bank of Montreal coat of arms tbd Kenneth G. Rea 1928 Listed on the Canadian Register of Historic Places[28]
Rideau Hall
(Government House)
Ontario Ottawa; 1 Sussex Drive Rideau Hall - 15.jpg lion and unicorn, in a version of the Royal coat of arms of the United Kingdom tbd David Ewart,
1914 expansion
Ottawa - Rideau Hall.JPG
Rideau Hall:
Pediments not original construction, date from 1914 construction of Mappin Hall
Listed on the Canadian Register of Historic Places[29]
St. Lawrence Hall[30] Ontario Toronto; 157 King Street east Toronto StLawrence Hall pediment 01.jpg depiction of former coat of arms of Toronto John Cochrane and brothers[31] William Thomas 1851
St Lawrence Hall, Toronto (exterior).jpg
St. Lawrence Hall:
Listed on the Canadian Register of Historic Places[32]
Ancienne Banque de Montréal Quebec Gatineau; 40 promenade du Portage Former BMO building crest above door.jpg Curved fragmental pediment with Bank of Montreal coat of arms Edward and William Sutherland Maxwell 1907 Listed on the Canadian Register of Historic Places[33]
Ancienne-Douane (old customs house) Quebec Montréal; 150, rue Saint-Paul Ouest / place Royale Ancienne-Douane 15.jpg Albion, representing Great Britain, solitary female figure with trident and shield[34] unknown John Ostell 1836
Ancienne-Douane 17.jpg
Old Customs House:
current statue replaces wooden original;[34]
Listed on the Canadian Register of Historic Places[35]
Bank of Montreal Head Office Quebec Montreal; 119, rue Saint-Jacques Banque de Montreal Place d Armes Montreal 18.JPG Bank of Montreal coat of arms: two First Nations figures flank a seal with motto Concordia salus (here with two European pioneers)[36] Sir John Steell John Wells[37] 1847
Bank of Montreal Head Office, Montréal, Southeast view 20170410 1.jpg
Bank of Montreal Main Office
Bonsecours Market Quebec Montreal; 350, Rue Saint-Paul Le marché Bonsecours1.jpg abstract design tbd William Footner 1847 Listed on the Canadian Register of Historic Places[38]
Le Chien d'Or
The Golden Dog
Quebec Quebec City; Louis S. St.-Laurents Building, 3, Rue De Buade Bureau de poste Haute-Ville Quebec 06.JPG gold-painted limestone relief panel of a dog gnawing a bone unknown Pierre Gauvreau, builder 1688 (sculpture)
1872 (building)
1913 (expansion)
Quebec ville, Canada 22.jpg
North facade (relief panel is center, below the entrance porch's flag):
Listed on the Canadian Register of Historic Places[39]
London and Lancashire Life Building Quebec Montreal; 244, rue Saint-Jacques Edifice London and Lancashire 02.jpg several minor ornate pediments on main and flanking facades unknown Edward Maxwell 1898
London and Lancashire Insurance Building, Place d-Armes, Montreal, QC, about 1895.jpg
London and Lancashire Life Building, c.1895:
Maisonneuve Municipal Library
(Bibliothèque Maisonneuve)
Quebec Montreal; 4120 Ontario Street East Bibliothèque Maisonneuve 10.jpg central seal with inscription tbd Cajetan Dufort[40] 1910-1912
Formerly, Maisonneuve City Hall:
(l'Hôtel de Ville de Maisonneuve)
Maisonneuve Public Bath and Gymnasium Quebec Montreal; 1875-1877, Morgan boulevard, Borough Mercier-Hochelaga-Maisonneuve Bain Morgan 10.jpg blind pediment, with figural acroteria Arthur Dubord[41] Marius Dufresne[42] 1916
Bain Morgan 22.jpg
Later called "Bain Morgan"
Montreal Masonic Memorial Temple Quebec Montreal; 2295 Saint-Marc Street and 1805 Sherbrooke Street West Montreal Masonic Memorial Temple 9.JPG two caped male athletes flank a coat of arms with signs of the Four Evangelists tbd John Smith Archibald 1929 Montreal Memorial Masonic Temple:
Montreal Masonic Memorial Temple 1.JPG

Listed on the Canadian Register of Historic Places[43]
Ravenscrag, Hugh Allan Residence Quebec Montreal; 835-1025 Avenue des Pins Ouest Fronton du Ravenscrag.JPG coat of arms (motto Spero), scrollwork and foliation carved in deep open-bed pediment unknown Victor Roy and John W. Hopkins 1863 Segmental pediment dormer:
Hugh Allan House 02.jpg
Rialto Theatre Quebec Montreal; 5723, avenue du Parc Rialto Cinema.jpg a pair of segmental pediments with escutcheons unknown Joseph-Raoul Gariépy 1924
Rialto Theatre Montreal 01.jpg
Rialto Theatre:
Listed on the Canadian Register of Historic Places[44]
Saint-Joseph du Mont-Royal Quebec Montréal; 3800, chenin Queen Mary Dome @ Oratoire Saint-Joseph du Mont-Royal @ Mount Royal @ Montreal (30380813336).jpg escutcheon flanked by palm branches Paul Bellot 1937-1941 Listed on the Canadian Register of Historic Places[45]
Prince Edward Building Saskatchewan Regina; Scarth Street and 11th Avenue Prince Edward Building.jpg minor segmental pediments over 3rd story, and triangular pediments over 4th story, contain abstract carving unknown David Ewart 1907 aka Old Post Office
Saskatchewan Legislative Building Saskatchewan Regina; 2405 Legislative Drive Saskatchewan Legislative Assembly - Regina (30194721508)-cropped.jpg Center: Enthroned figure of Canada
Left: Seated Aboriginal, his wife and infant, tools and handicrafts
Right: Seated settler, his wife and 2 children, cow, sheep and plow[46]
Canadian members of the Bromsgrove Guild of Applied Arts[47] Edward and William Sutherland Maxwell 1912
Saskatchewan Legislative Building (3080562507).jpg
Saskatchewan Legislative Building:
Listed on the Canadian Register of Historic Places[48]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Webb, Pamela A., Hellenistic Architectural Sculpture: Figural Motifs in Western Anatolia and the Aegean Islands, The University of Wisconsin Press, Madison, Wisconsin, 1996 pp.23-25
  2. ^ Price, Matlack, "The Problem of the Pediment," The Architectural Forum, July 1925, Volume XLIII, Number 1, pp. 1.
  3. ^ a b c d e f Jean-Francois Caron, "The Golden Dog," Encyclopedia of French Cultural Heritage in North America.[1]
  4. ^ a b c Timothée Roussel from Dictionary of Canadian Biography.
  5. ^ a b William Kirby, The Chien d'Or: The Golden Dog; A Legend of Quebec (New York: R. Worthington, 1878).
  6. ^ Nicholas Jacquin, dit Philibert from Dictionary of Canadian Biography.
  7. ^ a b c d e James MacPherson Le Moine, "Le Chien d'Or: The History of an Old House," Maple Leaves (Quebec: Augustin Cote & Co., 1873), pp. 89-97.[2]
  8. ^ Legardeur de Repentigny from Dictionary of Canadian Biography.
  9. ^ a b Old Post Office from CRHP.
  10. ^ David Mendel, "Old Post Office: An Imposing Edifice," Quebec: Birthplace of New France (Quebec: Sylvain Harvey and Commission de la capitale nationale de Quebec, 2012), pp. 18-23.
  11. ^ a b c A. A. Stoughton, "The New Manitoba Parliament Building," Construction: A Journal for the Architectural, Engineering and Contracting Interests of Canada, vol. 16, no. 3 (March, 1921), H. Gagnier, Limited, Publishers, Toronto, Canada, p. 74.[3]
  12. ^ Wiens, Gavin. "Manitoba History: Carrying the Torch: Optimistic Themes in the Classical Vocabulary of the Manitoba Legislative Building". Manitoba Historical Society. Retrieved 27 September 2021.
  13. ^ "1923 (sic) - Bank of Montreal Building, Calgary, Alberta". Archiseek. Retrieved 6 September 2021.
  14. ^ Bank of Montreal, Calgary from CRHP.
  15. ^ Barrett, Anthony A. & Rhodri Windsor Liscombe, Francis Rattenbury and British Columbia, Architecture and Challenge in the Imperial Age, University of British Columbia PressVancouver, 1983
  16. ^ "1907 - Merchant's Bank of Canada, Victoria, British Columbia". Archiseek. Retrieved 7 September 2021.
  17. ^ Merchant's Bank of British Columbia from CRHP.
  18. ^ Baker, Marilyn, Manitoba's Third Legislative Building, Symbols in Stone: The Art and Politics of a Public Building, Hyperion Press Limited, Winnipeg, 1986
  19. ^ "Statues/Sculpture", 100 Facts, 100 Years, the Legislative Building of Manitoba, p. 16.
  20. ^ Manitoba Legislative Building from CRHP.
  21. ^ "Historic Sites of Manitoba: Winnipeg Law Courts Building (391 Broadway, Winnipeg)". Manitoba Historical Society. Retrieved 7 September 2021.
  22. ^ "Veiled Justice: the Bath Rubber and the Potato Peeler". Manitoba Free Press. 27 August 1915. Retrieved 7 September 2021.
  23. ^ Winnipeg Law Courts from CRHP.
  24. ^ Legislative Assembly Block, New Brunswick from CRHP.
  25. ^ Colonial Building from CRHP.
  26. ^ Bank of Montreal, Sydney from CRHP.
  27. ^ Province House, Nova Scotia from CRHP.
  28. ^ Bank of Montreal, Hamilton from CRHP.
  29. ^ Rideau Hall from CRHP.
  30. ^ McKelvey, Margaret and Merilyn McKelvey, Toronto: Carved in Stone, Fitzhenry & Whiteside, Toronto 1984, p20 and more
  31. ^ McKelvey, Margaret and Merilyn McKelvey, Toronto: Carved in Stone, Fitzhenry & Whiteside, Toronto 1984, p. 20
  32. ^ St. Lawrence Hall from CRHP.
  33. ^ Ancienne Banque de Montréal, Gatineau from CRHP.
  34. ^ a b "Propriétés municipales c'intérêt patrimonial (fr)". Ville de Montréal. Retrieved 16 September 2021.
  35. ^ Former Montreal Custom House from CRHP.
  36. ^ "Bank of Montreal Coat of Arms". Bank of Montreal. Retrieved 6 September 2021.
  37. ^ Wells' Canadian Commissions (1831-1859)
  38. ^ Bonsecours Market from CRHP.
  39. ^ Old Post Office, Quebec City from CRHP.
  40. ^ Dick Nieuwendyk, "Maisonneuve City Hall," Montreal Times, n.d.[4]
  41. ^ "To Start Work in Maisonneuve Park". Montreal Gazette. 4 November 1914. Retrieved 7 September 2021.
  42. ^ "Public bath and gymnasium, Morgan Boulevard, Montreal, QC, 1916". McCord Museum. Retrieved 7 September 2021.
  43. ^ Masonic Memorial Temple, Montreal from CRHP.
  44. ^ Rialto Theatre from CRHP.
  45. ^ Oratoire Saint-Joseph from CRHP.
  46. ^ Gordon Barnart, Sentinel of the Prairies: The Saskatchewan Legislative Building (Regina, Saskatchewan: 1987), p. 37.
  47. ^ Goodspeed, Rhona. "Saskatchewan Legislative Building and Grounds" (PDF). Retrieved 7 September 2021.
  48. ^ Saskatchewan Legislative Building from CRHP.

External links[edit]