Neat book Bill! The last ocean liner image I will likely restore for a long while is published just now - I was able to develop a "new" photograph of the Titanic's sister ship the Britannic at Mudros in 1916 with a P&O hospital ship alongside. I give a link to the authors webpage and you can see a preview of the image I did. Enlarge the screen and you can see it all clearly (crtl&scroll out w/mouse). Mark is a great guy and I have worked with him before on a few books (recall all those unpublished never-before-restored color slides of the R.M.S. Aquitania I did?) and articles for the Titanic Historical Society and so on - all of which can be seen at his website one way or another:Mark Chirnside's Reception Room
Well, I am pleased to share this bit below!
I hope you enjoy it - I am rather proud of this one.
I am pleased to announce that the pilaster from the First Class Lounge of the Mauretania (1904-36) I mentioned a while back is fully restored in display at the Segedunum Museum at Wallsend. The site is perhaps 1,200 feet from the Mauretania’s launch cradle (gone since 1959). This new museum is just north of the former location of the platers' shed, the frame turners' shop and the timber shed at the old Swan Hunter & Wigham Richardson Yards. More information about this museum and display will follow – this post will focus on the pilaster. I am also supplying an evocative candid of the Lounge for this pilaster display as well as a really dynamic unpublished photo taken from a tug under her stern, tied to her, at about 2:05 p.m. on October 22nd, 1907.
It was a little over a year ago that I was contacted by a friend to authenticate this rather large section of African mahogany. I certainly did due diligence, and in depth, but it was obvious to me it was indeed genuine just from looking at as I recognized it straight away - short line of solid provenance aside. I have been asked to examine carved wood and plaster capitals said to be from her before, but few, if any, such instances have yielded genuine finds beyond the odd treen and unusual scrap item.
I then spent time researching the origins of this pilaster, evaluating its condition, the symbolism so carefully carved and the techniques used to create this fine gilt decorated pilaster. The story about Palestinian carvers being brought in is just that - a story. I also detailed its interesting history once removed from the ship. Then I set about finding a good home for it. It was very important to the owner (and me) that the pilaster not be cut up and resold, but that it be restored and displayed for the public f possible. The materials below are just a part of the result of this research. We were very lucky to have found the ideal home - and so very near the original location where it was carved over a century ago.
I am not prepared to discuss provenance in detail at this time as the previous owner wishes anonymity. I can say it was intended for Bristol and was never far away from that location. Furthermore, it was never installed in what is now the Java, and it was not part of the Great Tew Estate Sale. I provided three detailed photographs to show you some of the superb craftsmanship and quality of this piece before restoration. It is interesting to compare these photographs with the wood now in the Java. More photographs, as well as additional information regarding the museum's function and history and as the display opening, are forthcoming.
From my research: “...the pilaster has the gold skirting, carved fluted pilaster and the golden double ram’s head capital atop. Found near the sets of double doors which led out of the Lounge, these pilasters framed the adjacent sitting and writing rooms as well. They were also employed in each alcove and on the corners of the aft bulkhead alongside the statues of Columbia and Britannia.
Having never been altered, painted or re-installed since 1936, this example retains its original finish. Portions of the reverse have the typical dark grey graphite-based coating intended to reduce friction and noise between these large joined sections at sea. On the reverse and in hidden areas are some characters and markings from its original carving, installation or possibly from its reassembly for resale by The Mauretania Syndicate. The pilaster is in "fine" condition on the whole and has the wear and marks expected from 27 years of service and subsequent storage.
The skirting is of carved mahogany molding decorated with gold paint and detailed with the Roman crossed ribbon motif which appeared repeatedly in the ship’s decor. Two of the three sections of skirting remain attached to the pilaster, slightly loose, with the third segment requiring a minor glue repair. There is a small rectangular notch beneath the front left crossed ribbon on the skirting which reveals a small bit of original hardware. The tiny insert intended to conceal this is present and slips right back into place. There may be other concealed hardware inserts.
The fluted mahogany pilaster above the skirting, with its hand-carved gilt motif of stylized acanthus flowers, is beautifully intact and exemplifies the superior craftsmanship this ship is known for. It is not surprising to find the ancient technique of carving both wider and thicker at the bottom with a gentle taper toward the capital to subtly enhance the perceived height. The pilaster has four small equidistant holes running up each side from the original installation hardware.
The golden capital atop is of the stylized Scamozzi design typical of the First Class Lounge. The double ram’s heads denote strength and nobility with the spiral horns serving as volutes. The capital is adorned with a central medallion of Britannia wearing a stylized Corinthian helmet establishing maritime dominance. The portrait is surrounded by triumphal English laurel foliage and fruit; it is further decorated with ornate ribbons and a globe.
Missing are some of the smaller, more fragile elements of the capital, and the body of the capital is cracked in half just right of the medallion (a clean, break easily repaired). The lost bits include the swag suspended between the two intricate rams and approximately three fourths of the two rams' fur "pendants" which hung from horn to horn on each of the ram’s heads. A small portion, perhaps half of one ram’s fur “pendant,” remains on the left. If desired, the missing elements can be recreated from the photographic record and the originals in the Java at Bristol (although many columns and other features were removed from the pub during recent “renovations” despite the Grade II Heritage listing). The delicate carvings of the ram’s heads, laurel leaves, folded ribbons and more are nearly complete but for chips at each corner, one larger than the other, both of which will need filling. There are some additional minor losses, rubbing and abrasion, none of which are unexpected with delicate plasterwork over pine.”
Dimensions (ALL Approximate):
Skirting: Height 4 ½”, width 13”, depth 3”
Fluted pilaster: Height 82 ¾” (with skirting 87 ¼”, with skirting and capital 91” total), width at bottom 10” tapering to 8 ½” at the top, depth above skirting 1 ½” tapering to 13/16” at the top
Capital: Maximum height (rams snout to top) 7”, maximum width 15”, maximum depth 5”
Weight: 34 lbs The skirting with crossed ribbon detailing. Gold paint on African mahogany.The fluting with acanthus floral motif. Gold leaf on hand-carved African mahogany.Detail of a ram's head with horn and decoration. Gold leaf and gold paint on plaster over pine.
I hope you enjoyed these materials. Placing this pilaster at this specific museum and providing images of the ship for the display has been very satisfying!
edited for spelling~