Friday, December 14, 2007

The Churchill Series – Dec. 14, 2007

(One of a series of weekday posts on the life of Winston S. Churchill.)

Readers Note: One of you commented in response in this series post. I've responded. We both agreed on a few things about President Truman. You can view the comments here.


I guessed the painting Churchill gave President Harry Truman which was auctioned by Sotheby’s this week would fetch at least $300 thousand more than the pre-auction estimate of $1.03 million.

The International Herald Tribune reports it actually went for a bit less than $1 million.

Oops! Sorry about that.

Moving right along, many of you know that as a child Churchill loved to play with his large collection of toy soldiers. He later befriended the artist Paul Maze, who also had a large collection of toy soldiers.

With that as background, here are excerpts from a 1985 New York Times article:

Britain's leading stately homes are brimming, as one would expect, with paintings of the great masters and rare furnishings. But two of them - Wilton House and Blenheim - have a surprise in store for visitors: extraordinary collections of miniature lead soldiers.

Each collection is significant in that it includes figures from two separate periods of toy-soldier artisanship. Wilton House contains an impressive collection of late 18th- and early 19th-century two-dimensional soldiers known as ''flats,'' all set in dioramas and tableaux representing such historic battles as the Charge of the Light Brigade. At Blenheim, a vast assemblage of early 19th-century three-dimensional figures called ''Lucottes'' represent the colorful armies of Napoleon. […]

The [Napoleonic] collection is a relatively recent addition to the treasures at Blenheim, and is housed there as a result of the efforts of Sir Winston Churchill, who was born at Blenheim while his American mother, Jennie Jerome, was visiting.

Part of the palace has been turned into a memorial to Churchill displaying, among his memorabilia, the auburn curls of his childhood, his baby dress, bedroom slippers and the ''siren suit'' always at his bedside during World War II in the event that he had to make an emergency journey.

Sir Winston was a close friend of the artist Paul Maze whose father started the toy soldier collection during the early 1890's. When he thought Maze old enough to preserve and care for the soldiers, he presented the collection to his son.

In London, Maze displayed them in a large case and when Churchill visited, he was always fascinated by the army and would rearrange it to his satisfaction. According to Maze, he always complained that there was ''not enough artillery in support.''

In 1935, both Maze and Churchill were invited to spend Christmas at Blenheim. Churchill suggested to Maze that Napoleon's entire army be moved ''stock and barrel'' and displayed at Blenheim. Maze agreed and gave the entire army to the present Duke, who at the time was a child of nine.

Maze later wrote, ''I am happy to know the Army is an added attraction to young and old people who visit Blenheim under good guidance.''[…]
The entire Times article is here.

I hope you all have a good and safe weekend. I’m thinking especially of those of you in the storm areas