In about 1921 Jenkins visits Stringham’s mother, Mrs. Foxe, and stepfather, Buster, at their Berkeley Square apartment, whose opulence takes Nicholas back a century. He enters the library, “generally crimson in effect, containing a couple of large Regency bookcases. A female portrait, by appearance a Romney, hung over the fireplace, and there was a malachite urn of immense size on a marble topped table by the window…” [QU 55/57].
This setting illustrates the opulence of the apartment, but at first we do not know how long these objects have been in the family. Regency antiques are easily purchased nowadays on the Internet. This mahogany book case (circa 1815) was for sale in May, 2013, for 65,000 pounds sterling (www.georgianantiques.net). Prince George was Regent from 1811-1820, but the Regency furniture period in Great Britain encompasses about 1800 to 1830. The style features mahogany, rosewood, and ebony, sometimes supplemented by brass inlays or metal grills, and incorporating classical Greek or Roman motifs.
George Romney (1734-1802) (a distant cousin of the American family of politicians) was a prolific and acclaimed British portraitist. He struggled early in his career and was never a member of the Royal Academy but won prizes and developed a fashionable aristocratic following. Romney painted Emma, married to Lord Hamilton, and later mistress of Lord Nelson, over 60 times. “George Romney specialized in capturing the qualities valued by aristocratic society — health, youth, good looks, and an air of breeding. His refined works are distinguished by easy poses, flowing curves, and an overall elegance of design (Boston Museum of Fine Arts)” For a fuller portfolio of his portraits see the George Romney entry at museumsyndicate.com. Romney was a contemporary of Gainsborough and Reynolds, maintaining a particular rivalry with the latter. We later will accompany Jenkins when he references these other eighteenth century luminaries.
Mrs. Foxe, heiress to a South African gold fortune, might have purchased the bookcase or the painting. However, the urn, of good Russian malachite from the Ural mountains, had been given to an ancestor of Mrs. Foxe’s first husband, Lord Warrington, by the Tsar early in the nineteenth century. Mrs. Foxe’s urn, though “immense,” might not have been quite so imposing as this one from the Tsar’s palace of about 1830, which was displayed at the Chicago Exposition of 1893 and is now a focal point of the Lightner Museum in St. Augustine, Florida.