Thursday, 11 October 2012

Lusitania Medal-Piece of the Week.

 It’s a small medal in a box that was struck nearly a hundred years ago.

Despite its size and at first glance, it is quite innocent looking,  this piece of history tells us fathoms about the era in which it was made and the tragedy that it represents.

I recently visited Cobh on the Irish coast near Cork, were passengers had once boarded the Titanic for its maiden voyage where there is a memorial to those that died on the Lusitania.

The medal was struck by the British "copied" from the original, that was made after the deplorable act of the sinking of The Lusitania on 7th May 1915 by a German U-Boat, killing 1,198 of the 1,959 people aboard, leaving 761 survivors.

It is said that it is an exact replica of the one that was struck by Karl Goetz for the Germans to commemorate the atrocity.
It was made in 1916 some time later than the original which was made privately in August 1915.
It was said that 500 German medals were struck and a limited circulation took place.

British copies were of die cast iron and were of poorer quality than the original. The original Goetz medals were sand-cast bronze. Belatedly realising his mistake, Goetz got the date wrong and the original German medal was dated ‘5 Mai’ Goetz quickly issued a corrected medal with the date of "7. Mai".

The Bavarian government suppressed the medal and ordered their confiscation in April 1917.
The original German medals can be identified from the English copies because the date is in German, the English version was altered to read 'May' rather than 'Mai'. After the war Goetz expressed his regret that his work had been the cause of increasing anti-German feelings.
One side of the medal showed the sinking of the Luitania laden with guns with the motto "KEINE BANNWARE!" ("NO CONTRABAND!"), the other side showed a skeleton selling tickets with the motto "Geschäft Über Alles" ("Business Above All").The replica medals were produced in an attractive case claiming to be an exact copy of the German medal, and were sold for a shilling apiece.

On the cases it was stated that the medals had been distributed in Germany "to commemorate the sinking of the Lusitania" and they came with a propaganda leaflet which strongly denounced the Germans and used the medal's incorrect date to claim that the sinking of the Lusitania was premeditated.
The head of the Lusitania Souvenir Medal Committee later estimated that 250,000 were sold, proceeds being given to the Red Cross and St. Dunstan's Blinded Soldiers and Sailors Hostel.

There had been an advertisement placed in an American paper warning of the risk to passengers travelling on Cunard Line.

U-Boats were the new threat to shipping.
U-20 sank the 6,000 ton steamer Candidate. It then failed to get off a shot at the 16,000 ton liner Arabic, because although she kept a straight course the liner was too fast, but then sank another 6,000 ton British cargo ship flying no flag, Centurion, all in the region of the Coningbeg light ship.
The specific mention of a submarine was dropped from the midnight broadcast on 6–7 May as news of the new sinking's had not yet reached the navy at Queenstown, and it was correctly assumed that there was no longer a submarine at Fastnet.
Captain Turner of Lusitania was given a warning message twice on the evening of 6 May, and took what he felt were prudent precautions.

There can be n excuse for this barbaric act in the early days of the First World War before new style Naval warfare, and the new U-Boat threat had been understoo.
But it is also a fact that Britain wanted America in the First World War and this unholy act is cited as one of the main reasons that America entered the war on the side of the Allies.
Churchill then Lord of the Admiralty knew of the threats to the Lusitania and it was said he was away playing golf, it has been rumoured he ignored the threats. 
Posters were also produced. It says a lot about the cruel nature at the time where both side splayed with propaganda that cost peoples lives.

The RMS Lusitania was funded by the British Government and had a contract that it could be commissioned by the Navy.

It was estimated that it took 16 minutes to sink 11 miles off the Old Head of Kinsale.

The contemporary investigations both in Britain and in the United States into the precise causes of the ship's loss were obstructed by the needs of wartime secrecy and a propaganda campaign to ensure all blame fell upon Germany.

The reason why we the British would strike a medal and distribute it, is, a sinister act itself.

Argument over whether the ship was a legitimate military target raged back and forth throughout the war as both sides made claims about the ship and whether it was a legitimate target.

At the time she was sunk, she was carrying a large quantity of rifle ammunition and other supplies necessary for war, as well as civilian passengers.
Several attempts have been made over the years since the sinking to dive to the wreck seeking information about exactly how the ship sank.
It was on its way to Liverpool and one of its bronze propellers is on display near Liverpoos Albert Dock.

Tuesday, 2 October 2012

Art Deco Panther-Piece of the Week

I love the way the French depicted animals in the inter war years, with their tradition of sculptors in the genre.
The noble beast lends itself to a stylised study and in the hands of a good sculptor it is amazing what can be done.
I have chosen a picture of one I currently have that is not too expensive, £300-400 would be a decent price to pay for such.
It is a spelter model, but the base is nice marble and the way it has been inlaid with sections of onyx just gives it a  little extra.
It has a bronze patina and this is everything when purchasing a spelter as a beautiful glow can hint that it is a bronze to most people.
Where do you go with the same equivalent in bronze well its going to set you back a thousand pounds and if it was by my favourite sculptor Rembrandt Bugatti, son of the furniture maker and brother of the car designer then you may be looking at half a million pounds.
This is a nice way to "buy in" to he at deco style. It may be said it is a touch on the masculine style but having sold scores of Art Deco Cats to ladies it seems that the beauty transcends the sexes.
 I don't know anyone could deny the beauty of a strident black leopard stalking its prey or just strident as in this pose.
Le Livre du Jungle that was published in France, or as we know it here Jungle Book by Rudyard Kipling.
This animalier style was championed at the Salons and was maybe the continuation of a tradition that Antoine Louis Barye came from in the 19th century.

 So you may wonder what a cartoon in the sixties with songs such as the Bear necessities and lyrics such as "I wanna be like you..u..u, dooby doo, dooby doo, have got to do with this sculpture.
Well its my opinion that it is because Le Livre Du Jungle was illustrated by Paul Jouve with his beautiful stylised and characterful depictions of the beasts that Kipling made come to life from his memories in India, and this helped to inspire a generation of artists and sculptors that helped form the vision that made the cartoon come alive. To another generation. It does not disredit Paul Jouve t know that his amazing illustrations of Mowgli  lit up the eyes of Walt Disney for sure.
How now we take it for granted, we know almost every creature that has ever existed, but in the 1920's  you may not know what a Lion or a Tiger looked like.
These exotic creatures were to mesmerise a generation with a novel such as Edgar Rice Burroughs Tarzan of the Jungle, (it seems like only yesterday, watching the Johnny Weissmuller and seeing the 1960s cartoon on the flics).

Today these artists and sculptors from a tradition of craftsmanship that could not be recreated today, leave an affordable and stylistic legacy to a almost forgotten era.

But in the twenties and thirties you could discover their magnificence only in a zoo, but a sculpture could then be purchased in a posh department store and be placed be pride of place on your mantelpiece..............just as you can today.