Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Photo of the Day

This one is a bit tough. It was new to me when I encountered it last winter. (Hint: I was in London)

Ok, I admit this one is hard as it is a one of a kind departure for the artist. May I present the Melchett Fire Basket designed by British sculptor Charles Sargeant Jagger in 1930.
Jagger is better known for his war memorials but this work from the tail end of his life reflects his embracing of art deco. This unusual basket was part of a larger commission for Henry and Gwen Mond (later Lord and Lady Melchett) for the drawing room of "Mulberry House" their Edwin Lutyens designed home in Westminster.
Jagger's bas relief panel above the mantel is entitled "Scandal" and references the then shocking menage a trois arrangement the Monds and writer Gilbert Cannan had prior to their marriage. Read the entire story in Eric Turner's 2009 article in Apollo Magazine....it is fascinating.
The daring relief shows a pair of lovers naked and subject to the finger pointing and whispers of society gossip. The iconography of the fire basket had to be pointed out to me. I thought it was all about exoticism, sleek deco cats and cool stylized maidens. But it is meant to be a visual reminder of the two-faced nature and cattiness of society which often parrots idle gossip not thinking about its veracity or negative effects. Meow...I get it, and how clever indeed. The drawing room was designed by architect Darcy Braddell and had lavish silver leaf classical themed murals by Glen Philpot and green bronze doors.
The drawing room at Mulberry House ca. 1930. Photo: Country Life via the V&A
I must admit, while the English expressions of art deco are not as iconic as what emerged in France, this room got it right. Its cool classical sleekness predates what we now more popularly identify as "Hollywood Regency".
The drawing room at Mulberry House ca. 1930. Photo: Country Life via Apollo Magazine
Turner's article conveys that the interior was believed lost in the blitz in 1940. However, the fire basket emerged at Sotheby's in 2004 and "Scandal" surfaced in the Robin Roberts sale at Christie's in 2007. They were both secured by the Victoria & Albert Museum where they are finally reunited and on display.

1 comment:

  1. The Bas relief panels remind me of the apartment of Jeeves and Wooster in the episodes set in New York. Fun. David.