A sculptural tribute to Canada’s late Queen

In February 2019, the Senate moved to the Senate of Canada Building, a former train station built in 1912. The Senate will occupy this temporary location while Parliament’s Centre Block — the Senate’s permanent home — is rehabilitated.

Although Centre Block is shuttered for rehabilitation work, Canadians can still experience its
 art and architecture through the Senate’s immersive virtual tour.

It will be an enduring tribute to Canada’s late queen.

A new commemorative sculpture honouring Queen Elizabeth II’s 70-year reign has gone on display in the Senate of Canada Building. Crafted by Dominion Sculptor John-Philippe Smith, it began to take shape last winter, when celebrations for the Queen’s Platinum Jubilee were in the planning stages. When the Queen passed away in September 2022, the piece became a tribute to her life of service.

This sculpture is actually a preliminary version, cast in plaster and finished with a stonelike patina. When Centre Block is fully restored, a final stone version of the sculpture will feature prominently in the Senate foyer.

It will be a striking reminder of a historic reign that encompassed 22 royal tours of Canada and shaped defining moments in the country’s history, including Canada’s Centennial celebrations in 1967 and the patriation of its Constitution in 1982.

Dominion Sculptor John-Philippe Smith drew this sketch of the proposed Platinum Jubilee sculpture before modelling the design in clay.

Mr. Smith has completed several pieces since arriving on the Hill as an assistant carver in 2018. This will be his first since being named Dominion Sculptor in July 2021.

He sketched several proposals; one based on the Canadian Platinum Jubilee emblem caught the attention of Senate officials, including the Speaker of the Senate and the Usher of the Black Rod.

The emblem has been flying over federal landmarks, including the Senate of Canada Building, throughout the Queen’s Jubilee and it has become symbolic of the culmination of her reign. The design — the crown of St. Edward surmounting a seven-sided medallion bearing the Queen’s royal cypher — lent itself well to sculptural interpretation, but Mr. Smith worried it might be overshadowed in the richly decorated Senate foyer.

“It needed something personal to round out the design,” he said. “The Usher of the Black Rod consulted with the Royal Household and suggested the Queen’s favourite flower, the lily of the valley.”

The finished clay model.
The carving will eventually cap the main arch above Centre Block’s Senate foyer, near <a href='https://sencanada.ca/en/sencaplus/how-why/in-pictures-a-window-on-the-past-is-preserved-for-the-future/' target='_blank' >the Diamond Jubilee Window </a> created in 2010.

Mr. Smith spent November working up the preliminary sculpture in clay, adding clusters of lilies — seven of them, marking seven decades on the throne — on either side of the emblem.

The next step: making a plaster duplicate. Mr. Smith and his team created a synthetic mould, brushing layer upon layer of liquid silicone over the clay model.

The silicone cures in a few days, forming a flexible casing in which to cast a durable plaster copy, called a maquette.

The maquette is a work of art on its own, nearly indistinguishable from stone. It went on display in early December just inside the entrance to the Senate of Canada Building, where it will remain while the Red Chamber occupies the building.

A second maquette will serve as a template for the final carving in stone. When that piece is installed in Centre Block, it will occupy a privileged vantage, serving as the keystone that ties together the six-metre arch spanning the entrance at the south end of the Senate foyer.

“This is a rare opportunity,” said Mr. Smith. “We’re creating a sculpture for a part of Centre Block that wasn’t originally designated for carving.”

Mr. Smith acknowledges that a lot of work remains before Centre Block’s stone version is completed and mounted.

“The carving has taken on added significance since the Queen’s death,” Mr. Smith said, “but I try not to let myself get caught up in that while I’m working. It will likely sink in once it’s done and I’m looking at the finished piece.”

Mr. Smith works on the early stages of the model using a synthetic material called plasteline that, unlike traditional clay, does not dry out or shrink.

Mr. Smith applies finishing touches to one of the decorative lilies on the clay model.

Mr. Smith adds subtle textures to the nearly complete clay model.

Mr. Smith adds final refinements to the clay model, checking how it will look installed high above the viewer.

Sculptors Danny Barber and Anna Williams begin to prepare the mould, brushing liquid silicone over the clay model.

The silicone cures to form a pliable shell. This mould is used to cast the plaster maquette.

A durable plaster maquette is cast from the silicone mould — the last step before carving in stone.

Mr. Smith adds a patina to the plaster maquette, giving it the appearance of real stone.

From left to right, Senate Speaker George J. Furey, Dominion Sculptor John-Philippe Smith and Usher of the Black Rod J. Greg Peters unveil the maquette in a ceremony at the Senate of Canada Building in December 2022.

The finished plaster maquette. (John-Philippe Smith, <em>Maquette of H.M. Queen Elizabeth II’s Canadian Platinum Jubilee Emblem for Centre Block</em>, 2022. Plaster, H: 32 cm x W: 61 cm x D: 61 cm, Government of Canada)


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