As we mark the King’s Coronation, Dreweatts is pleased to be offering a selection of lots of Royal interest in our May Interiors auction, taking place on Tuesday 16 May. Among the highlights is the last sculpture made of Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth, The Queen Mother and Prince Charles’ investiture chair. Head of Sale, Ashley Matthews, takes a look at the items on offer.
The highlight of the auction is Lot 8, a verdis-gris patinated bronze bust of Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth, The Queen Mother by the renowned sculptor Martin Jennings.
The bust was one of two that Jennings created of the Queen Mother in 1998, one of them was commissioned by the Friends of St. Paul’s Cathedral on the occasion of her upcoming 100th birthday and was unveiled by the Princess Royal in 2000. It now sits on permanent display in the OBE chapel at St Paul’s Cathedral. The other is the example offered here.
Jennings has portrayed Her Majesty naturalistically modelled wearing her favourite Greville tiara, created in 1921 for British society hostess and philanthropist Margaret Greville (DBE) by jeweller Lucien Hirtz at Boucheron, and bequeathed to the Queen Mother on her death in 1942). It is now often worn by Her Majesty The Queen Consort. In the portrait bust, it was worn alongside a matching necklace and earrings above flowing robes, held in place by a brooch.
Jennings is known for many notable public works, such as a statue of Charles Dickens in Guildhall Square, Portsmouth; the Crimean War nurse Mary Seacole in front of St Thomas' Hospital in London and George Orwell outside BBC Broadcasting House to name a few. Jennings has a long standing Royal pedigree and was recently commissioned for the portrait of His Majesty King Charles III on the new coinage and stamps.
When asked about the bust Jennings remembers that "[he] was asked by the friends of St Paul’s Cathedral to make a bust of the Queen Mother for her approaching 100th birthday. That was a wonderful opportunity, not least because she was an important historical figure".
Jennings’ creation of the busts involved a total of seven sittings with the Queen Mother at Clarence House and they were initially modelled in plaster for ease of transport, before being later cast in bronze.
On the sittings, Jennings notes "You work at eye level with your sitter, and I found that the only way I could work at eye level with her was to kneel on the floor, so I spent all of the sittings kneeling on the floor in front of her. She made no comment about this, maybe she was used to it… I felt that this was thoroughly appropriate."
He goes on, "You are thinking all the time about who somebody is and how you are making your sculpture, about the anatomy and then the details of the face. Anatomically it was extraordinary to have the opportunity to scrutinise somebody of such advanced age and so important".
On the theme of Consorts to the Monarch, we have Lot 3, a signed photograph of His Royal Highness Prince Philip, the late Duke of Edinburgh. The Duke is photographed wearing his Naval uniform adorned with medals and decorations. The photograph is signed and dated 1992 and is presented in a Smythson of Bond Street blue leather frame bearing the Duke’s monogram. It carries an estimate of £150-250 (+ fees).
The auction also includes some coronation furniture. Lot 7 comprises four coronation stools, each branded with the royal cypher to the seat rail, making them easily identified. The group of four are offered with an estimate of £1,000-1,500 (+ fees).
One is from the 1937 coronation of the last King to sit on the throne, George VI, held at Westminster Abbey. George VI was appointed King following the abdication of his brother Edward VIII (who gave up the throne to marry divorcee Wallis Simpson and became known as the Duke of Windsor). The procession to and from the Abbey was the longest of its kind at the time, stretching to nearly 10 kilometres in length and the ceremony was one of the most lavish.
The three other chairs in this group are from the coronation of Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II in 1953, which was also at Westminster Abbey, following a 900-year tradition. This was the first coronation to be televised and was watched by 27 million people in the UK, plus millions more around the globe. The Queen ascended to the throne at the age of 25, on the death of her father King George VI in 1952 – she would become the longest reigning-monarch of the UK. The coronation service, which was conducted by the Archbishop of Canterbury, lasted three hours and guests were seated on chairs in blue velvet, above limed oak supports to ensure comfort for the duration.
This may be Charles III’s coronation, but in 1969 he took centre stage during his investiture as Prince of Wales. The investiture was held on the 1 July in the Medieval Caernarfon Castle and was orchestrated by his uncle Antony Armstrong-Jones, 1st Earl of Snowdon. The ceremony officially bestowed the title of the Prince of Wales to a 20 year old Charles.
This was only the second investiture, the first in 1911 for the then Prince of Wales who later became, for a short while at least, Edward VIII and later Duke of Windsor. A new coronet was created for the event which incorporated a gold painted ping-pong ball. The previous coronet had gone missing and was later found amongst the Duke of Windsor’s effects after his death in 1972.
In this auction, we are pleased to be offering Lot 4, an armchair from the Investiture of Charles, Prince of Wales. The Investiture chair presented here is typically decorated in red stained beach, the back gilt indented with Prince of Wales's feather motif, the seat upholstered in red Welsh tweed. Following the ceremony these chairs were dismantled and offered for sale 'flat-pack' with the attendant guests having ‘first refusal’ on their purchase, the remainder being offered to the public. Lord Snowdon, purchased six for himself.
If there is one thing that the British public love to do to mark historic occasions, then it is street parties and what better way to display Coronation chicken sandwiches, Coronation quiche, Union-Jack cakes or other party food on than Lot 5 and Lot 6. These two lots include a selection of English commemorative glassware, mostly dating from the 1937 coronation of George VI.
Tuesday 16 May | 10.30am BST
Donnington Priory, Newbury, Berkshire RG14 2JE
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