Tuesday, September 2, 2014

C-2. The Manners family in Phoebe Traquair's ALL SAINTS mural

C-2. The Manners family in Phoebe Traquair's ALL SAINTS mural
The Baron, Lord John Manners, commissions this mural from Phoebe Traquair in All Saints Church in 1920.Traqair knows the context of the chapel that was built to commemorate the two Manners children who died, John and Molly (Mary Christine.) She also knows that Lord Manners employs her in the same year (1920) that his wife Constance has died, because he wishes to commemorate his wife in the church as well. 

     John Thomas Manners-Sutton (Lord of the Manor of Avon Tyrrell by 1909) and Constance Hamlyn-Fane (Lady of the Manor of Avon Tyrrell by 1909) had married in 1885 and had five children: [i]
               Mary Christine, called Molly 1886-1904 (b. Dec.4,1886, d. Feb.15, 1904)         
               Betty Constance (twin)       1889- 1962 (first born of the twins, inherited Clovelly)
               Angela Margaret (twin)       1889-1970
               John Neville                       1892-1914 (b. Jan. 6, 1892, d. Sept. 1, 1914)
               Francis Henry                     1897-1972

[i] For most of the information about the family I rely on my own 2006 and 2012 visits to the chapel and on the 2006 Burn and Elkins book. I arrived at some of the same portrait identities they did, but on my own, (Blake, Tennyson, Lister, Pasteur, Edward Horner), some are portraits I have discovered myself (Eric Gill, Rex Whistler, and Traquair), but Burn and Elkins are responsible for the identifications of Lord Manners, Lady Constance Manners, John Manners, Francis Manners, the twins, Charles Gore, Laura Lovat, Asquith and Katherine Horner, and Bishop Cecil and his three sons, all of whom appear in the painting. We may not
be in agreement about the identification of Molly in the mural. (I present only my own idea about her.)

Traquair decides to distribute the family members evenly along the wall, with the Honorable Francis Henry Manners, the youngest, as the Christ child in the center. 

 









She presents the twins, Betty and Angela, as angels bearing scrolls on which are written words about their mother's death. They are both barefoot and dressed in nearly identical spring dresses with wings, one on each side of the altar.
Angela is on the left,
Betty on the right. 

 

 Angela's inscription says in Latin :  Avon
                                                     Constantiae
                                                     non
                                                    Immemor                (Avon of Constance never forgotten)
Betty's inscription reads:  A.D.
                                       IV.non.Mart.
                                       mdccccxx
(Translation from Latin:  March 4, 1920 – date of Constance’s death ( literally:
 Anno Domini (in the year of our Lord) or Ante Diem, 4th day before the nones of March; in 1920 the nones of March fell on the 8th day of the month, hence four days before the nones would be March 4, 1920).


I am indebted to Canon Elkins for the initial explanation of the Latin inscription and I am most grateful for learned help from Dr. Sears Jayne, Dr. Alistair Duckworth, and David Handforth. Thanks to all of them.



The twins thus acknowledge their mother's death in writing on the banners they hold as they sing in the group as angels.
           The mother, Lady Constance, is presented, according to Burn and Elkins, on the left wall between the figures of St. Peter and Tennyson; she is dressed in white and has short-cropped curly hair. She looks towards St. Peter who holds keys, but the keys are placed over her white gown as if to signify that she is the key to the mural's existence.  
        
Directly in front of her and to the right of St. Peter's fish net is the Honorable John Manners, her son:
 
He is painted as a young pilgrim with staff and cockle-shell hat and sandals, and on his satchel is the white "maintenance cap" of the heir-apparent. He faces towards the Holy Family and holds onto his staff with both hands. Behin him the figure of St. John the Baptist (barefoot with cross staff) extends both arms toward John Manners to present his namesake to the holy family in the center as well as to God above as well as to the viewer of the mural. 
One twin, the mother of the family, and the heir apparent son on one side of the mural; one twin, the father of the family, and the eldest daughter on the other side. Traquair deliberately sets up a symmetrical arrangement of the family members with the living heir, Francis, most honored in the center as the Christ child.
           Lord Manners, the Baron, is presented to the right of the Holy Family, as St. George killing the Dragon. He is dressed in metal armor with a long spear that has struck the dragon in the head. Is this presentation Traquair's way of referring to Lord Manners' win on horseback? St. George here does not have his horse, but viewers might remember the steed on which George defeated the dragon.

 


 
The comical representation of the dragon's head with pink tongue sticking out and eyes askew is a way of presenting death that counteracts the serious real deaths alluded to elsewhere in the chapel.







The head of St. George resembles photograph portraits of Lord Manners:
 
                                                   Photograph of Lord Manners, courtesy Burn and Elkins, p. 92.
 Behind Lord John Manners and to his right on the wall is a choir singer in red gown and white chasuble holding an open choir book (to the page of the Te Deum?) This is the Manners daughter, Mary Christine, Molly, for whom the All Saints chapel was constructed.
Her face is similar to the carved wooden portraits of Molly on the doors; her hair is swept up behind her.
 
     Three family members on one side of the altar, three on the other side balance the composition symmetrically; and in the center is the baby, the youngest. But the whole family is painted in the mural as younger than they would have been or were in 1920. They are the ages they were in 1904, the year that Molly died. In that year Lord and Lady Manners were in their 40’s or 50’s, Mary Christine was 

17-18, the twins were about 15, John about 12, and Francis was and is the baby, literally. The point of

portraying them at younger ages is that Phoebe wishes to capture a last moment when the 

family was happy, alive, and all together.

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