Phoenix Statue

The Phoenix Assurance Company was founded in London in 1781. In 1974 its headquarters relocated to “Phoenix House” on Redcliffe Hill (now the Holland House hotel) and in the mid 1980s further expanded into a new building, then known as “Freshford House” diametrically across the traffic island from St Mary Redcliffe church. Outside of the building, at the junction of Redcliffe Street and Redcliffe Way, the company erected a sculpture, now partially hidden behind shrubbery. It is called “Phoenix and Four Elements” and was commissioned in 1985.

The four relief bronze panels depict Earth, Air, Fire and Water (the four basic elements of alchemy, or mediæval chemistry) and form the four sides of a stylized geometric mountain which represents the world and on which a bronze phoenix alights to be reborn in flames. “Earth” is the pregnant figure emerging from the clay of the relief, surrounded by orchids. “Air” is seen against the disc of the sun borne along by the wind which blows her hair between the fingers of her right hand. “Fire” is the figure emerging from the flames with stylised flames to her left and “Water” is represented by the swimming figure.

The “Phoenix” is a mythical bird said to live for some 500 years before immolating itself on a funeral pyre from which it rose again in renewed youth, regenerating itself from the ashes.

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