Sunday, February 14th 2016
Yesterday’s visit to the Fashion and Textile Museum gave us an idea of where we could go today. We breakfasted in the newly opened branch of Bella Italia in the Angel Centre and then trundled the shopping trolley round Sainsbury’s. After putting away the shopping and having a brief rest, we set out for our intended destination. On the way, we passed through Cavendish Square Gardens, currently home to an unusual piece of sculpture.
The sculpture in question is an equestrian statue, in classic form, of the Duke of Cumberland. What is special about it is that it is not carved in stone, as you might expect, but in an entirely different material. We first encountered this object in October 2012 and I wrote about it then – see Breakfast in Baker Street. I described it in these terms:
Originally, a statue of the Duke of Cumberland (also known as Prince William, younger son of George II) sat on the plinth. The Duke commanded English forces at the Battle of Culloden and his treatment of the enemy following the English victory earned him the label “Butcher Cumberland”. Widespread disapproval led to his statue being removed in 1868. Now Korean artist Meekyoung Shin has undertaken to reproduce that statue in soap in a work entitled “Written in Soap – a Plinth Project”. According to the information panel, “As the sculpture erodes due to the effects of the weather, the scented soap will disintegrate and release a perfumed aroma. The detail of the statue will soften and fade over time, symbolising the mutable meanings we attached [sic] to public monuments and our history”.
As predicted, the statue has begun to deteriorate but rather than softening and fading away, it has developed large fissures and pieces have dropped off, leaving the underlying metal supports visible. Click on the above image to see some close-up views. If you look at my previous post, you will see the statue in its pristine state.
On the grass nearby, placed on a low trolley, stands another sculpture, this one made of marble. It is called my lady (without capitals) and is by Andy Elton (with capitals). More than that I cannot say apart from the fact that it has already attracted the attention of the Saatchi Gallery (see here, for example).
Now for the main item, the destination suggested to us by our trip to the FTM.
Having seen an exhibition of Liberty’s fashions (see Liberty’s fashion and a glimpse of Guy’sHospital), it seemed reasonable to round this off with a visit to the store itself. The above image is a composite of several frames and is best viewed in a larger size. Click the image to see this.
The faux-Tudor style building in Great Marlborough Street was built in 1922-4 and was designed by Edwin T. Hall and E. Stanley Hall. It is connected to the Regent Street premises by two bridges built in 1925 and 1974, respectively. The construction was carried out reusing timber from two early 19th-century ‘men of war’ sailing ships, HMS Hindustan and HMS Impregnable. The building is Grade II* listed.
The unusual and picturesque (not to say flamboyant) appearance of the building is guaranteed to attract attention but the interior is equally fascinating. As we walked around, we more than once felt as though we were visiting a museum. Immense care has been taken with the decor and the arrangement of the shop from the grand plan down to the most minute details. The result is, I think, quite unique.
You know my obsession with stairwells. This was one not to be missed. It could have belonged to an Elizabethan mansion.
The lightwell brings daylight to each of the floors. Where the floors meet the lightwell, this creates a galleried effect like the courtyard of an old coaching inn or perhaps a Shakespearian theatre.
There is plenty of space in which to stroll and view the goods on display.
This fireplace is a fixture and not an item on sale.
The stairwell. Yes, again. I can’t resist it.
Some displays brought back memories of yesterday’s visit to the Liberty’s exhibition at the Fashion and Textile Museum.
Around the lightwell we spotted some carvings of animals of which this one, a kneeling elephant, is an example. They exemplify the attention to detail that is a characteristic of the store.
While you are inside the shop, the outside world seems far away as this view of a window suggests.
The lighting is as much decorative as functional and this cascade of lights has a beauty of its own.
This was our last view of Liberty’s, taken for the corner of Little Marlborough Street with Kingly Street. Our visit was interesting as a follow-up to the exhibition but also in its own right as Liberty’s is a unique institution and well worth exploring.