Saturday, 24 April 2010

Selfridge's, Oxford Street W1

The clock over the main entrance of Selfridge's was one of the last parts to be completed, for the eastern end was built first in 1909, the western end in 1920, the middle in 1926 and the clock installed in 1931.
Known as the Queen of Time, it is by Gilbert Bayes, who mined a lifetime's development of polychromatic techniques to create this gold and blue bronze, a stunning and rich effect. It is a superb composition, noble, confident and lovely.
The Queen looks superficially like Athena, holding little figure of Nike (Victory) in her right hand and a sprig of laurel (also a symbol of victory) in her left. But unlike Athena she wears no armour, and Nike stands on an orb, a regal attribute. She is also winged (time flies, geddit?) and stands on the prow of a ship. Her supporters are mermaids holding phases of the moon controlling the tides, and of course the Queen of Time and Tides waits for no man.
The model was Leopoldine Avico, one of the three Avico sisters who were something of an institution at the Slade between the wars.
The clock behind supports an Elizabethan ship, recalling the early days of the exploration that would lead to the industrial revolution, trade and commerce, globalisation and the rise of shopping as the principal hobby of most of the western world except, of course, for eating, drinking and sex.


Hels said...

This was quite a complex and scholarly sculptural programme, so I wonder if Gordon Selfridge laid out the original commission details in 1908-9. The American owner of this new shopping concept wanted neo-classical columns, an impressive entrance and rich decor­at­ion for his temple to shopping, so perhaps he loved the idea of Athena.

I must go into the bowels of my blog and add a link to the post on Selfridge's. Many thanks

ChrisP said...

Thanks for the link, Hels. The invitation to the 1909 opening is interesting - it shows the whole store even though only the southeast corner was actually built. As you say, Selfridge clearly had the whole thing mapped out right from the start.

Jack Self said...

Great Blog, right up my alley.

David Lewis said...

Hi, Thanks for this page of phs of selfridges.I was in London sketchingthe fronteage,which I had been planning to do for some time,when I got there it was covered in a Luis Vuitton promo and I couldnt get the vantage i had planned,so great to get some details.David

CB836 said...

Hi Chris,

Just to confirm, the clock was included in the store's plans from 1926, approved 1930 and completed the following year.

linda collins said...

My grandfather was a sculptor and stonemason who worked on the clock at Selfridges. His name was William Woodwoard Cooper and he lived in Kensington.