The Hobart

Provocative Political ‘Piss-Take’ Revealed At Maritime Museum

by Emily Quintin
Provocative Political ‘Piss-Take’ Revealed At Maritime Museum

History and humour collided with the unveiling of what is perhaps Australia’s earliest-known free-standing full-length statue – a well-dressed colonial gentleman caught in the act of urination – at Hobart’s Maritime Museum.

The statue is 1.3 metres tall and functionally plumbed, with intricate details that have been immaculately preserved. The provocative nature of the work suggests a political statement of contempt rather than a whimsical garden feature – so who does it depict, and who conceived it?

Staff and volunteers at the Museum have been carefully piecing together the clues that have led us to believe the slightly sordid statue depicts Van Diemen’s Land Lieutenant-Governor George Arthur as a form of political protest against the colonial leader who, by the time he was recalled to London, was cheered as he left Hobart.

To arrive at this conclusion, we first looked at the origin of the stone ‘George’ is carved from. It’s a soft, fine-grained sandstone, and our x-ray fluorescence analysis revealed the composition is consistent with Tasmanian Triassic sandstone, more specifi­cally, similar to samples taken from Ross Quarry. The clothing the statue is depicted as wearing is rendered in great detail with visible buttons, seams and fabric creases. The style of clothing is typical of the time that Arthur was in Tasmania, with this particular outfit and square-toed shoes being quite fashionable during the 1830s and 1840s. There are indeed other features consistent with the images of Arthur, even if it is something of a caricature.

We looked at similar sculptures in Van Diemen’s Land from the time, and began with the convict-built Ross Bridge and the role of the two stonemasons Daniel Herbert and James Colbeck. Herbert was responsible for many of the carved figures on the Ross Bridge, he was also known to take private commissions for work, and we’re confident this is his handiwork when compared to similar works of the time in the area.

But who would commission such a statement? Someone who had considerable dislike of Arthur enough to go to the consider­able expense of commissioning the piece – a wealthy landowner or merchant perhaps? There were many who were outspoken about Arthur, but few had the animosity, resources and oppor­tunity of William Kermode. Kermode had an antagonistic rela­tionship with the Governor and was a vocal critic. Our research­ers believe it feasible that Kermode had enough ill-feeling to consider commissioning this functioning statue – he had ready access to the best stonemasons, and a reliable source of water at his extensive property near Ross.

Pic: MMT collection

The statue’s life since it was created is as mysterious as he is, however, it was donated to the Maritime Museum by a local family in 2023 to protect and preserve for future generations.

“This extraordinary work chal­lenges our perceptions of colonial art and political expression,” says Maritime Museum Tasmania President Chris Tassell. “Maritime Museum Tasmania is pleased to be able to present this remark­able and provocative sculpture and we invite the public to join us in unravelling the mysteries of Australia’s earliest known free-standing full-length statue.”

If you’re interested in seeing this enigmatic piece of colonial history up-close, pop into the Maritime Museum, he’s now on permanent display in our upstairs Carnegie Gallery.

Love this

Close
Cold Water Wake Up Call
It seems everywhere I turn someone is talking about or participating in cold water swimming right now.
A Short Geelong Getaway
Since the Spirit of Tasmania terminal moved from Melbourne to Geelong late last year, a visit to Geelong has been on the radar.
27 Hobart Friends Get Snipping For One Off Wine
The borders were declared shut in Tasmania on the 30th of March, 2020; the first stare to do so amid the COVID- 19 pandemic and hard lockdown of Hobart followed.
Danphe Nepalese and Indian Food + Peppermint Bay Bar and Bistro
Nepalese food is a comfort in our house. Having spent much time trekking and mountain climbing in Nepal as a younger man, Nepalese food is something I always love to go back to.
That’s DR Hannah Gadsby To You
From Smithton to Netflix and the Emmys stage, Tasmanian stand up comic Hannah Gadsby has forged an unlikely path. Following on from the massive success of her shows Nanette and Douglas, Hannah brings her new show Body of Work to Hobart this month.
PODCAST: Incat founder Robert Clifford on why electric boats are the future
Robert Clifford is the founder of Incat, a Hobart company building fast ferries for the world. Always looking to future opportunities, he has identified where Hobart sits in the next wave of transportation. For more of this interview listen to The Hobart Magazine podcast.
Is Tourism Ready For More Forestry Wars?
Tasmanian forests are special. They’re home to centuries-old trees, including the tallest flowering trees on the planet, and support unique native species. Yet not everyone agrees on how these forests should be managed.
Hobart Chefs: When The Obsession Becomes Real
Tasmania’s brand as a foodie haven is cemented. But within the local hospitality industry there are those who love to use local produce...and those who are next-level obsessed with it. We spoke to a bunch of Hobart chefs who are top of the game when it comes to fostering relationships with local farmers and growers.
Did You Know Australia’s First Female Doctor Was Hobartian?
Tasmania, despite its small size and population in comparison to the mainland, has produced more than its proportionally predicted percentage of significant figures and heroes of Australian history. 
Return Travellers Adding Pressure to Hobart Housing
For all of us 2020 was a year like no other, punctuated by rapid change and plenty of new challenges. For vulnerable people in Tasmania, including people facing homelessness, those on low incomes and those facing increasingly higher rents, it was very challenging. We are seeing a growing demand for homes in Tassie from international travellers returning home, people moving for work and others seeking the lifestyle that our Apple Isle has to offer.
Magazine
AboutContributeAdvertiseNewsletter Sign UpContact
April 2024

Stay up to date with everything happening at the Hobart Magazine.

Thank you to Luke Brokensha for mobilising his friends and local residents recently to host two rubbish clean ups along the Hobart Rivulet after heavy rains.
The warm weather returns...hello summer.
Need a laugh? Check out @theinspiredunemployed feed on Instagram.
Moto Vecchia Cafe in Bellerive and Czegs Cafe in Richmond have joined the Clarence City Council dementia program, creating dementia-friendly spaces for all patrons.
It’s hard to believe it’s not standard practice to have a working phone in every aged care room - shared phones make private conversations impossible and increase the risk of spreading COVID-19.
Tacks on the tracks. Mountain bikers beware of tacks being left on certain tracks on the mountain.
Just when you think your cousins are alright. NZ Opposition Leader Judith Collins took aim at Tassie during her recent (unsuccessful) campaign, calling us Australia’s “poor cousin.” She also seems worried about us nabbing tech businesses, “It’s a lovely part of the world but do you necessarily want to go there with your high- tech business? Possibly not,” she said. We beg to differ!