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It’s a Statue of Prince Philip. Really. But Now It Has to Go.

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The bronze statue in Cambridge, England, is 13 feet tall. The figure wears academic robes and a mortarboard. It doesn’t exactly have a face, since its head appears to be wrapped in a twisted cloth.

Who does this statue, titled “The Don,” allegedly depict? It’s, uh, Prince Philip. Sure enough, a plaque under the sculpture reads: “H.R.H. Prince Philip Duke of Edinburgh, Chancellor, University of Cambridge, 1977-2011.”

But the artwork has not conjured up thoughts of Philip, who died in 2021, for many who have seen it. And the statue has also not met with the international acclaim accorded to Michaelangelo’s David or China’s Terracotta Army. To say the least.

In 2014, the year the statue was erected, Nadine Black, the Cambridge City Council’s public art manager, called it “possibly the poorest quality work that has ever been submitted to the council.”

Earlier this month, the council told the Unex Group, which owns Charter House, an office building in the center of Cambridge where the statue stands, that it must be removed by August.

In part it is for a lack of artistic merit: The order mentions the statue’s “harmful material impact.” But it is also because the statue was erected even though permission for it had initially been denied.

That 2014 denial said the statue’s quality “must at best be considered questionable.”

Katie Thornburrow, a Cambridge city councilor, said on her website, “I will be glad to see it gone, but remain angry that developers could just dump it in place and then force the council to spend officers’ time and money getting them to take it away.”

The Unex Group did not respond to a request for comment. Its chairman, Bill Gredley, told The Times of London: “There were people that didn’t like it, and I understand this, and there are people that love it, and I understand that as well. The piece is controversial.”

He said the statue would be moved somewhere “where it would be appreciated.”

So who is the Donatello or Brancusi responsible for this monstrosity? Oddly enough, that isn’t easy to answer.

The Unex Group credited a Uruguayan sculptor, Pablo Atchugarry. Mr. Gredley told Varsity, a University of Cambridge student newspaper, in 2014 that Mr. Atchugarry had “designed a model in marble, and thereafter we had the model enlarged and cast” in bronze.

But Mr. Atchugarry stridently denied being the creator of the work. According to the Varsity account, he told The Cambridge News at the time that he was “really astonished, worried and disappointed” at what he considered a misrepresentation of the credit. He added that he had never even seen the finished piece.

Can we safely call the Don the worst sculpture of modern times? There are formidable challengers.

A bust of the soccer star Cristiano Ronaldo that was unveiled in 2017 at the airport in Madeira, Spain, that is named for him was widely reviled for looking less like a handsome footballer and more like Sloth from “The Goonies.” It was removed after a little more than a year.

A 2009 statue of Lucille Ball in her hometown, Celoron, N.Y., was called Scary Lucy for its distorted facial features, which conjured nightmares rather than laughter. It was replaced by a statue with a more conventional Lucy-looking face. The creator of the original piece was so rattled by the uproar that he gave up sculpting.

But the passage of time often changes art’s reputation. Rodin immersed himself in everything Balzac before sculpting that author. “Ultimately, Rodin was more invested in capturing Balzac’s creative power and vitality than in faithfully recording the author’s physical likeness,” according to the Clark Art Institute in Williamstown, Mass.

But the largely literal-minded art lovers of the time could not focus on anything except that the sculpture didn’t precisely resemble Balzac. A plaster version of the statue unveiled in 1898 was met with scorn.

As a result of the mockery, Rodin withdrew the work, and it was not cast in bronze until 1939, 22 years after his death.

Now it stands on Boulevard Raspail in Paris, near the intersection with Boulevard Montparnasse, a much loved city monument.

It may not come in our lifetimes. But perhaps there is still time for the Don or Ronaldo to be accorded similar places of honor. Maybe.

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