Thursday, 8 November 2012
Royal Automobile Club, Pall Mall SW1
The Royal Automobile Club is the last and the largest of the clubs in Pall Mall, built in 1908 by Mewes and Davis, architects of Ritz hotels around the world and many ocean liners. Clearly, clubs were moving away from being meeting places for like-minded men to luxury accommodation for the loaded.
The pediment over the grand entrance of the RAC contains a charming group by the French sculptor Ferdinand Faivre, a graduate of the Ecole des Beaux Arts in Paris.
At the centre, a motherly figure holds a torch aloft to light the way for a winged cherub at the wheel of a motor car. Pevsner rather sniffily dismisses it as 'primitive' but in 1908 it would have been fairly state of the art. The Ford Model T was launched in that year, after all.
Three cherubic motor mechanics play with parts and tools on either side. It looks as though the motor is broken down in the woods somewhere (note the oak tree behind the lady). This would have been a very familiar occurrence in 1908, when very few journeys were completed without a puncture at the very least.
It would not, however, have been acceptable for ladies, however allegorical, to bare their all at the side of the road or for chauffeurs, however cherubic, to wave their willies from the driving seat.