Scandal, by Charles Sargeant Jagger. Bronze relief and cast-iron fire basket set, 1930. The set was commissioned by Henry Ludwig Mond (later the second Baron Melchett; son of Jagger's wealthy patron, Sir Alfred Mond) and his wife Gwen, for his drawing room at Mulberry House, Smith Square, Westminster, and was an important feature of its celebrated Art Deco interior. The ensemble was intended to call to mind the couple's early relationship when they had a ménage à trois with the author Gilbert Cannan: it had been understood from the start that Gwen would look after Cannan, who had previously been her lover, and whose mental health was precarious (see Compton 128). The relief mocks the nasty drawing-room tittle-tattle that this occasioned, showing onlookers gawking, pointing, and raising their hands as a pair of lovers embrace. [Click on these photographs, and the one below, to enlarge them.]

As for the motifs on the firebasket, according to the Victoria and Albert Museum wall label, the "two snarling cats hiding behind a [double] profile portrait of Gwen Mond.... signify the double face and cattiness of society gossip, while the parrot [perched in the middle between the two profiles] suggests the mindless repeating of stock phrases without thought for their meaning." The information comes directly from Compton's book, where we are also told that Jagger had a fierce macaw called Bill (128): at the beginning of Chapter One, there is a photograph of the sculptor working on a maquette for one of his works, with Bill perched on his shoulder!

Photographs and caption material by George P. Landow, courtesy of the Victoria and Albert Museum, London; see "Scandal" there for more close-ups. Commentary by Jacqueline Banerjee. [You may use the images without prior permission for any scholarly or educational purpose as long as you (1) credit the source and (2) link your document to this URL in a web document or cite it in a print one.]

Bibliography

"Charles Sargeant Jagger 1885-1934: Scandal>." Museum wall label.

Compton, Ann. The Sculpture of Charles Sargeant Jagger. Much Hadham, Herts: The Henry Moore Foundation; Aldershot: Lund Humphries, 2004.

"The Scandal Relief." V&A website. Web. 1 June 2017.


Created 1 June 2017