Sunday, August 31, 2014


 WHERE does the artist sign and date the mural in All Saints, Thorney Hill?

Noone has published until now the evidence that  Phoebe Traquair signed the mural four times and dated it twice.
The most obvious signature is on the lower right of the earthly band mixed in among the flowers of the ground below the right angel's feet: 
                                             P.A.Traquair (Phoebe Anna Traquair)

The stem of the flower sweeps over her name as though the name were part of the nature depicted in the scene.
She leaves another signature on the ledge of the parapet where the children hover in heaven.  

This second signature is not visible from down below to a viewer in the chapel. Canon Patrick C. Elkins and Mrs. Janet Burn mention part of this signature in their book, The Annals of Avon, The Story of the Avon Tyrrell Estate 1891-1947, (Ringwood: Pardy & Sons, Ltd., 2006), p.96. Mrs. Burn has taken a photo of it which she has kindly allowed me to reproduce.
On the ledge Traquair writes a phrase that reads:“This wall from floor to dome has been designed and painted by me. I fear the wall is damp. Phoebe A. Traquair July 1922.” Both the first and second signatures appear to have been placed at the completion of the work.
      The other two signatures she leaves on the mural are initial signatures, that is, the artist signs only her initials in a monogram without a date. She puts these two signatures on the chest badges of two scientists in the group on the right in the earthly scene, Lister on the left and Pasteur on the right:

 Below the cross and between the two ovals in which IMMORTAL is written above the name of the scientist are the initials TPA joined together as if one letter within another smaller oval. (The initial looks a bit like FA
beneath the words IMMORTAL and PASTEUR in the right badge, IMMORTAL and LISTER in the left badge.She has chosen to join the T and the P into one letter that precedes the A.)    A clearer example of this initial signature can be found in her self-portrait of 1911, now in the Scottish National Gallery:
 In the lower lefthand corner, painted onto her sleeve is the TAP word of her initials gathered together. The initial signatures in All Saints are smaller and less-pronounced, but she demonstrates a desire to place her
name underneath the IMMORTALS just the same. All the words in these badges have worn away some, including the initials, but they are legible to the viewer in person. Does Traquair insert her initials here as a way of ensuring her own immortality as well as that of the scientists? Certainly the fact that she felt compelled to sign the work more than once suggests an anxiety about the preservation of the painting, perhaps because of the "damp" mentioned in the highest signature phrase.Whatever the reason, she signs this work four times and makes sure the date is included twice, a painter's way of protecting her own good name.

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