By George Bailey, Senior Conservator.
It isn’t Rosemary Follett, Canberra’s first chief minister, nor is it Jennifer Morrison or Lady Lynne Cosgrove. We are talking about Canberra’s first public outdoor work of art, Sir Bertram Mackennal’s sculpture “War”, better known locally as “Bellona”, the Roman goddess of war.
Mackennal gifted Bellona to the Australian Government in 1915 as a tribute to the Australians who fought at Gallipoli. She was first displayed outside of the Federal Parliament in Melbourne in 1921. It was not a popular placement, and she was moved to Canberra in 1926 where she was the city’s first displayed piece of outdoor public art. She stood outside of the Albert Hall for many years, being the unfortunate subject of many practical jokes, including being dressed in bras and bikini tops, being painted several times, and even having her more prominent female attributes polished to a bright yellow sheen with Brasso.