On Saturday 6 May we join the nation in celebrating the coronation of King Charles III. At the age of 73, His Majesty became the oldest British monarch to accede to the throne, having been the longest serving heir apparent. His accession to the throne on 8 September 2022 marked a new era in British history and in October 2022 news of the official coin effigy of King Charles III for the Royal Mint was revealed with the release of the new official 50p coins. The effigy of our new monarch was created by renowned British sculptor Martin Jennings FRSS. Here Dreweatts Managing Director, Jonathan Pratt, sits down with Martin to discuss his Royal commissions.
Jennings is perhaps best known for his three-dimensional public sculptures of prominent figures from the worlds of politics, the military, royalty, academia, literature, industry, medicine and the law. His work is on private and public collections worldwide. One of his works includes a larger-than-lifesize portrait bust of Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth, The Queen Mother, which 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. We are pleased to be offering the only other example, which has been in Martin's private collection, in our Interiors auction on Tuesday 16 May (Lot 8). These two busts were the last sculptures made of The Queen Mother.
For this more recent Royal commission, Martin tells of his excitement having been among a small handful of sculptors to be short listed, and having presented drawings, was chosen for this special project, "I couldn’t have been more excited about it. It was a wonderful piece of design and sculpture to be asked to make, but it is painstaking."
Describing the process, Martin explains how this work differed to his other pieces. Normally, when creating a portrait bust, you fill it with the personality of the sitter, but for these purposes there had to be an absolute likeness, whilst still trying to retain the humanity in it.
Every millimetre or half millimetre had to be worked out carefully. It started with a two-dimensional drawing, and was then modelled in plasticine on a wooden board. From that plasticine original, a plaster cast was made. This was then sent to the Royal Mint and they worked with the plaster cast. Martin then explains how together with the Royal Mint design team, a typeface was chosen, "I wanted something robust and forthright". The spacing of the all the lettering was then integrated, along with the position of the words relative to the form of the head. Reflecting on the project Martin says "For me it has been a thoroughly satisfying project because it marries the two skills that I’ve been most interested in, which is figurative sculpture and lettering inscriptions."
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