Tuesday, 17 May 2011

Vintners Place, Queen Street Place EC4

 
Bang up against the end of Thames House is Vintner's Place, a disgusting parody of classical architecture erected by the Vintner's Company in 1990. The designers were Whinney Mackay-Lewis & Partnership. Mr Whinney, Mr Mackay-Lewis and all the Partners should be ashamed of themselves. The building replaced an Art Deco office block of 1927 called Vintry House that stuck up through the sightlines to St Paul's, making its demolition a condition of redevelopment. The developers mercifully spared the portico to Vintry House and its lovely sculpture of a nude Bacchante with goats, carved by Herbert Palliser.
It is an interesting contrast with the nudes all over Thames House next door. She stands full frontal, her hands raised to hold bunches of grapes over her shoulder, which accentuates her nudity. The goats look up from below and doves look down from above, focusing the entire composition on one particular spot. Is it just me, or is this the sexiest sculpture in London?
The model was Leopoldine Avico, one of the three Avico daughters of an Italian living on Soho, who were something of an institution at the Slade between the wars.
The composition is framed by a pair of swans, reminding us that the Vintner's Company is one of the three owners of all the swans on the upper Thames, the others being the Dyers and HM the Queen. Vintner's swans are traditionally marked with nicks on either side of the beak, the word 'nick' being corrupted to 'neck' in the pub sign 'Swan with Two Necks'.
Unfortunately, the Vintry House portal was crammed against the south facade of Thames House, concealing several of Richard Garbe's sculptures from view. All you can see from the street is a tantalising glimpse of some putti, one writing in an exercise book.

7 comments:

gille said...

I used to work at Vintry House in the 70s. It was then the home of HM Customs Valuation Branch. It was a fantastic old building with marble stairwells and an ornate lift. Such a shame that it was demolished.

Keith Miles said...

I also worked there in the 1970s; Standard Bank, (top floor); I remember a tightrope walker crossing the river one afternoon. Yes, a shame it is demolished.

Unknown said...

This statue of Baccante was modeled by my aunt Leopoldine Avico, of the Avico Sisters fame. She was also the model for The Queen of Time above Selfridges and a number of other sculptures in and around London. Just thought I'd mention!

Chris Partridge said...

Absolutely fascinating - I had never heard of the Avico sisters. Have you got more info? Please email me.
Chris

Chris Partridge said...

You can email me at chrismpartridge gmail.com

3693martin said...

i worked there in the 1970s for HMC&E. I found a photo today of the view of Southwark Bridge from the window of Vintry House. Nice building if you worked on the riverside but north facing was dreadfully dark.

Diana said...

Does anyone remember the Guild of Sommeliers based in 68 1/2 Upper Thames Street back in 1970? Vintners' Place comes up in some history I found as being the place where some of their Committee meetings took place. Although I worked in that "room" (very old and Dickensian) the rest of the magnificent building was closed off to me internally. Recently I visited Vintners' Hall and couldn't believe how wonderful the whole place is.