The Age of Innocence by Alfred Drury at The Victoria and Albert Museum

Welcome to “Art, Culture & Books” with me Anthony King. Today I’ll be taking you on a video and photographic tour of an 1897 plaster cast bust by Alfred Drury at The Victoria and Albert Museum, London called ‘The Age of Innocence’.

As always, I take all the photos and videos myself on location, ensuring you get an up-close and personal view of the fascinating world of art and culture. I’ll be popping in and out with commentary as this video progresses but for now let’s take a close up look.

Edward Alfred Briscoe Drury, a prominent figure in the New Sculpture movement, crafted variations of this sculptural bust between 1897 and 1918, modelling it after a friend’s daughter. While most iterations were cast in bronze, some took the form of white marble carvings. This specific version, a plaster cast, was given by Mrs. Joy Way. According to her, the sculptor, who resided opposite her family in Wimbledon during her childhood, gifted the bust to her mother in the late 1930s.

The gallery label tells us:

“Alfred Drury (1856–1944) Model for The Age of Innocence Signed and dated 1897 This bust became an icon of the so-called New Sculpture movement in Britain. It combines naturalism with echoes of 15th-century Italian art in the girl’s Renaissance-style dress. Drury used the daughter of one of his friends, Gracie Doncaster, as the model for the plaster. He went on to make many other versions in both bronze and marble”

His extensive career saw the creation of diverse decorative figures, including busts, statuettes, monuments, war memorials, and statues of royalty. Examples of his skilled craftsmanship are evident in the intricate details adorning Whitehall’s Old War Office building, the seamlessly integrated components of the Victoria and Albert Museum’s façade, and the commanding presence of four colossal statues on Vauxhall Bridge.

Experts regard the bust The Age of Innocence as a significant emblem of the late 19th-century English ‘New Sculpture’ movement. The signature and date, incised into the plaster’s surface post-casting, suggest its production in 1897, likely derived from an original clay or terracotta bust that is now lost.

By Anthony King (c)