Hale and hearty design devotees shopping The Decorative Fair, underway in London’s Battersea Park since Tuesday, have been known to unearth an astonishing array of antiques and vintage wares, many of them celebrating some of the world’s most memorable occasions. Spied this year, just in time to celebrate the birthday of Queen Elizabeth II, are a number of regal wares that have me practicing my parade wave! Let’s all get in on the fun, shall we, our hands swaying in the rarified air of commemorating the Queen, who turns 90 tomorrow (April 21st).
Happy Birthday Queen Elizabeth II
“The Queen’s 90th birthday led us to consider how iconic some royal symbols are—not just for ceremony but in our daily life,” says Pippa Roberts of the theme they’ve set. “They are even incorporated into designs and patterns across the centuries—think motifs like the fleur-de-lis and the crown.” In case you feel your home isn’t quite worthy of kingly, queenly or princely adornments, the Fair’s dealers are out to change your mind.
“We’re all familiar with armorials and coats of arms as architectural elements,” Roberts explains, “but we’re showing visitors how they can be used in interior decoration. Furniture on view is celebratory as well, a nod to the Carlton House desk created for the Prince Regent is on view, and the handsome 1969 Prince of Wales investiture chair, which was designed by Princess Margaret’s husband Lord Snowdon, popping up in stands.”
Royal Representations at the Decorative Fair
Feliks Topolski was the great chronicler of British pageantry during the last century. Originally sent to London in 1935 to record the state funeral of King George V, he immediately fell for the “exoticism” of the city, and the pomp and ceremony of state occasions that the British have developed into a fine art. In 1958, by then a naturalized citizen, he was commissioned by HRH The Duke of Edinburgh to produce a large-scale mural in a long corridor at Buckingham Palace to commemorate the Queen’s coronation day. He based the mural on his own personal impression of the Coronation, which he had watched in the streets outside the Abbey during the final rehearsal.
The Duke seemed pleased with the results, writing, “It is a fascinating contemporary record by a master of visual commentary of a great state occasion presented in his own highly individual idiom.” Topolski’s fascination with the monarchy earned him a wide array of commissions that include a work for Vogue magazine’s 1947 Royal Wedding issue. And during the 1977 Silver Jubilee celebrations, Selfridges in Oxford Street invited him to decorate their windows to commemorate the event. It was no surprise to anyone to find Topolski, sketch book in hand, at the forefront of the ceremony and celebrations surrounding the marriage of HRH Prince Charles and Lady Diana Spencer in 1981. This collection of original sketches, three of which are shown here, form a wonderful historical record executed on the spot in Topolski’s playful style and the three will be exhibited in the Panter & Hall stand, a new exhibitor at The Decorative Fair.
A rare London Underground double-crown poster announcing the Coronation of George VI in 1937 has been brought to the fair by Stephanie Connell. The lithographic poster was designed by Harold Stabler and printed by Baynard Press. Stabler was a designer, ceramic artist and metalwork designer who produced poster designs for London Underground from 1923-1937. He was a founding member of the Design & Industries Association with Ambrose Heal and Frank Pick. A copy of this poster is included in the London Transport Museum collection.
Anderson Wallrock brings an historically important Royal Presentation clock, commissioned by HRH Albert Edward, Prince of Wales, to the Fair. Made by the leading London jewelers Aspreys of Bond Street—holders of Royal Warrants to Queen Victoria and every subsequent British Monarch— the gilt dial of the clock is engraved with the Prince’s Royal heraldic feathers and Aspey’s title. It is encased in a monumental polished Welsh slate body flanked by Corinthian capital columns and surmounted by a bronze figure of Britannia seated on a Dias. The platform is inset with a gilt bronze inscription reading “Britannia Old Britty G L Watson Designer.” This refers affectionately to the Prince of Wales’ Royal Yacht Britannia as “Old Britty,” which was designed by the leading naval architect of the time, George Lennox Watson.
The plinth of the clock is inset with gilt metal plaques engraved with Queen Victoria’s Royal cypher and the words “Britannia Rules The Waves,” a humorous play on words making reference to British Sovereignty of the seas at that time, as well as the Prince’s racing yacht “Britannia.” The clock was presented to George Gould, the owner of the Herreshoff-designed Americas Cup-defending yacht, Vigilant, at the end of a series of 16 races in various seas around Britain and Ireland in 1894, which were won emphatically (12 races to 4) by The Prince’s yacht.
If your mind registers a crown befitting the human head when you view this 18th-century Italian corona brought to the fair by Kate Thurlow, you’ll need to adjust your perceptions because it’s statuesque at 122 centimeters high by 84 centimeters in diameter. The original hooks for fabric or draperies remain on the interior rim so it easily makes the perfect crowning flourish above a bed begging to be draped in a luxuriant flowing canopy.
David Levi Antiques will have the above English carved wooden Royal armorial in his stand. The early 19th-century adornment once likely lived above a shop or a hospitality venue, as there is a faint trace of text on the black base that reads “Patronized By Royalty.” The emblem measures 141 centimeters wide by 102 centimeters tall.
A Parade Wave to Queen Elizabeth on Her Birthday
Once again it’s Connell, a new exhibitor with Luke Honey Ltd, who has brought this signed photograph of a younger Queen Elizabeth II to the fair. With her lovely visage as a sendoff, I’ll end this nod to alluring representations of sovereign rule by wishing Her Majesty a happy birthday.
If you’re attending the Fair and you spot a fab piece of monarchial memorabilia, leave me a comment, will you? If you want to see other posts about The Decorative Fair, I’ve wrote about “The Hazards of Antiques Envy” and shared “A Valentine from Antiques Young Guns” here on Productrazzi. I’ve also created several literary design adventures on The Diary of an Improvateur, which include “Horace Walpole Shops the Decorative Fair” and “Cinderella in the South of France.”
Text of Happy Birthday Queen Elizabeth II © Saxon Henry, all rights reserved. Saxon is an author, poet and journalist. Books include Anywhere But Here, Stranded on the Road to Promise and Four Florida Moderns. She also produces The Diary of an Improvateur and is a columnist on Architizer.