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Thread: Mural Decorations At The Foreign Office In London, UK

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    Mural Decorations At The Foreign Office In London, UK

    The paintings depict the origin, education, development, expansion and triumph of the British Empire, leading up to the Covenant of the League of Nations, the names of the 32 original signatories of the League adorning the arches of the corridors on which the mural decorations are placed.

    - Britannia Sponsa -

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    This picture represents the seafarers or successive waves of oversea tribes landing to obtain possession of Britannia, conceived as a wild, fair-haired shepherd girl, and the withdrawal of an earlier and ruder race. The vision of the Angel between the two groups holding the chalice (an echo of the Glastonbury Legend) represents the spirit of Christianity. In the foreground the Roman occupation is hinted at in the broken fragments of classical architecture amongst the irises, and the white cliffs of Albion fill up the middle distance.

    - Britannia Nutrix -

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    The Bride becomes the Mother, and, in the Springtime of the race, the Arts of Peace are represented by Ploughing, Music, Pottery, Spinning, Reading, etc. But, above all, the rearing of a sturdy race of children and the mother's devotion are emphasised - Britain the Motherland.

    - Britannia Bellatrix -

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    Britannia is teaching her sons those bodily exercises and manly sports which will fit them to take their part in war should it come. It is not 'Warfare' but the 'Art of War' which is being inculcated. In contrast with the gay, light treatment of the 'Nutrix' panel, the tall pines and subdued tones of the figures are in sympathy with the sterner trials of life.

    - Britannia Mater Colonorum -

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    The subject of this picture is the spirit of the expansion of the race overseas. The mother of the colonists holds the trident aloft; she has won it fairly, and she sends forth her sons to seek their fortunes. The ruling passion holds even the little ones, who in the foreground launch their tiny boat upon the waves.

    - Britannia Pacificatrix -

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    The original conception of this picture was inspired by Great Britain being the first Great Power to propose and carry through a general Arbitration Treaty. The grasping of the 'hands across the sea' of the two great English-speaking races, Great Britain and the United States of America, seemed, in the artist's imagination, to be the fittest conclusion of his whole theme, and the other panels were severally designed to lead up to this.

    The War has, indeed, caused great changes in the details of the final composition, but the main idea subsists, that having won her position in the world, Britannia's influence is for Peace, and that her sons, whom she has sent in distant lands, are ready to return to the Motherland, and with counsel and aid be at her side.

    Happily the diplomatic re-grouping of the nations did not cause serious artistic difficulties.

    In the centre of the panel Britannia, grasping the hand of America, encloses within the folds of her royal mantle the three figures of Belgium, Serbia and Montenegro, forming one big group.

    Emerging from the horrors of war, which the allied nations are trampling underfoot, Belgium, a Psyche-like figure of pure girlhood, personification of the small nation with a great soul, appeals to Britannia. She has lost everything, but her honour is safe! She holds aloft her broken sword (she has fought heriocally); she grasps her flag unsullied, without a rent (her honour is untouched); she wears the crown of thorns (her sufferings have been her Calvary). Serbia is clasping Montenegro in her arms.

    On the left-hand side, banded together by a cast shadow, to give contrast to the sunlit group of Britannia and her sons on the right, are the allied nations. Each nation, as far as possible, is represented with an emblem of what she has given to the world:

    - America, wearing the cap of Liberty, as the greatest of Republics, holds the scales of Justice.
    - Italy, clad in white, carries the 'fasces', emblem of the Roman Law which she has given to the world.
    - France, with her Tricolour garlanded with laurels, points her sword to the 'Scrap of Paper' and the broken Crucifix, and to the debris of Despotism and Militarism which she has been fighting to destroy.
    - Japan carries the wild cherry-blossom, emblem of Japan's soul; the pure flower that carries no fruit.
    - Greece steps forward with a statue of Fame in her hands; she has given us Sculpture's highest art.
    - Roumania's natural resources are hinted at by a Figure carrying an oil jar on her head; Portugal is represented with a basket of grapes; and Russia, in mourning, hiding her face in sorrow, gropes her way forward on the extreme left.

    On the right are the Colonies:

    - Behind Britannia, in shadow, Newfoundland, our earliest colonial possession, is represented as a boy carrying the Trident.
    - Next comes the group of the four great Dominions: South Africa with the lion skin; Canada, crowned with wheat and girdled with maple leaves; Australia, advancing at the side of New Zealand, from whose shoulders hangs a sheepskin. They hold aloft their ensigns.
    - India, who took such a conspicuous part in the War, is represented as a martial figure in old armour. Behind India stands Prince Feisul, representing the Epic of Arabia; and in front a little Swaheli boy, bearing tropical fruits, reminds us of our obligations and possibilities in the dark Continent.

    The nations are assembled under a circular colonnade bearing the Angel's Christmas greeting, through which is seen a glimpse of the sea.

    Artist-Sigismund Goetze

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