Tuesday, 31 May 2011

Hidden London: naked ladies in Twickenham

When Mohamed al-Fayed unveiled his kitsch tribute to Michael Jackson at Craven Cottage, Peter Watts posted on London's worst statues. I forgot to suggest this extraordinary collection installed in York House Gardens, Twickenham, by the building's last private owner, Parsee prince Sir Ratan Tata, who paid £600 for them in 1909. The statuary is said to have been brought to Britain from Italy by financier Whitaker Wright, who killed himself using cyanide - in court - on being found guilty of fraud in 1904.

Following Tata's death, the main building was acquired in 1924 by the London Borough of Richmond and Twickenham for its council offices but the statues were left to fend for themselves, covered with obscene graffiti and apparently painted over in the Second World War so German bombers couldn't use moonlight reflected off the white Carrara marble to guide them up the Thames. The figures were restored in the late 1980s - this lady seems unperturbed by the plight of her friend: