Thursday, September 28, 2017

The Naked Ladies of York House, Twickenham

Thursday, September 28, 2017
Loretta reports:

I’m happy to say that our trip to London held many, many excellent surprises, not least among them the Naked Ladies at York House in Twickenham. The first surprise was learning that York House wasn’t the home of any Dukes of York. It was the home of the Yorke family, and built for one of King Charles I’s courtiers. Since then, it’s had more than its share of owners—including Anne Seymour Damer, a sculptor who was Horace Walpole’s great friend. (No, I didn’t get to Strawberry Hill this time. Next time, I hope.)

But among the artists, aristocrats, and would-be monarchs who called York House home, the one who caught my attention was Sir Ratan Tata—because he’s the one who’s responsible for installing these statues in the garden. They’ve led an exciting life, certainly. They belonged originally to Whitaker Wright, who killed himself with cyanide after a conviction for fraud. Sir Ratan, who ran a then-legal opium importing business, socialized with King George V.  During WWII, the ladies had to be camouflaged under some sort of dark substance, to avoid attracting the attention of German bombers.

I will admit that some of the poses puzzled us—and we’re not the only ones. Those responsible for installing the statues were puzzled, too, because they had to figure out how to arrange the figures without guidance from either the artist or written instructions. Furthermore, these Naked Ladies were meant to be part of a larger ensemble, but the other statues went elsewhere—possibly with the instructions. Still, while the arrangement may not be what the artist originally intended, it certainly does stop a visitor in her tracks.

You can learn more about the statues and their history at the York House Society website, in this PDF (this material appears on a sign near the statues as well, which proved impossible to photograph), at the Twickenham Museum site, and of course at Wikipedia, where you can learn more about York House as well as the Naked Ladies.

All images: Photo copyright © 2017 Walter M. Henritze III

Please click on images to enlarge.


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