A swimmer approached a statue depicting Mr. Darcy of Jane Austen’s novel “Pride and Prejudice.”

DAVID PARRY , Associated Press

Pride, prejudice and a splash of promotion

  • Article by: SARAH LYALL
  • New York Times
  • July 14, 2013 - 1:53 PM

– Who would not have swooned at the sight of a manfully tousled Colin Firth striding moodily around in his wet shirt during the broadcast of the 1995 BBC miniseries “Pride and Prejudice”? The scene — in which Firth’s character, Mr. Darcy, bumps into Elizabeth Bennet (Jennifer Ehle) after taking an impetuous swim on his estate — caused serious chest palpitations among those viewers who were not dead, and remains perhaps the only time a man dressed in a damp, puffy white blouse has ever looked truly hot on the screen.

So imagine the shock of workers and passers-by in Hyde Park last Monday morning, when Mr. Darcy emerged from the water yet again, like some sort of Arthurian resurrection, this time in the form of a 12-foot-tall statue plunked in the middle of the Serpentine.

“I liked the way the shirt was clinging to his chest,” said Veronica Matthews, assistant manager of the Lido Cafe in Hyde Park, speaking of the statue, which greeted her as she arrived at work that day. It had been placed there as a publicity move by UKTV, which plans to rebroadcast the six-part “Pride and Prejudice” series on its newest channel later this month.

The work was removed later in the day and will tour other lakes in Britain before ending up at Lyme Park, where the miniseries was partly filmed and where super-keen visitors occasionally show up wearing (nonwet) Lizzie-and-Darcy costumes of their own.

If Matthews had a criticism, it was that the statue did not look enough like Firth. For her, this practically defeated the purpose of displaying it in the Serpentine, or in any lake at all.

“The statue was OK for what they were trying to get across,” she allowed. But then she was off and reminiscing mistily about the electrifying real-life moment when she first encountered the fictional wet-shirted Darcy. “My first reaction was ‘Wow,’ ” she said. “Just, ‘Wow.’ It was one of the most memorable scenes ever on television.”

Toby Crowther, the lead sculptor for the project, said that the point was not necessarily to recapture the Firth sex appeal, per se, but to create “an homage to Darcy” inspired also by a number of actors — Laurence Olivier, Matthew Macfadyen and others — who have played the character on screen. “There was an actor named Rupert somebody who played Darcy at one point,” Crowther said. “But it’s mostly Colin.”

Made of Polycarve plastic coated with fiberglass and treated with resin for waterproofing purposes, the sculpture in fact consists of just the upper half of the Darcy physique, with the remainder — the part underwater — consisting of a steel frame resting on the bottom of the lake. Since the statue was always meant to be displayed in water, legs would have been superfluous.

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