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A Gentleman in Kharki, 1899
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A Gentleman in Kharki, 1899

Measurements: Height overall: 23cm (9in)

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Bronze. Modelled as an infantryman in foreign service order. The integral bronze naturalistic bronze base titled  ‘A Gentleman in Kharki’ and and inscribed to the ‘Copyright  / Mappin & Webb Ld’.

On the outbreak of the Anglo-Boer War in 1899 several British newspapers set up funds to assist refugees from the Transvaal, to provide comforts for British troops in the field and to give financial support to war widows and orphans. The proprietor of The Daily Mail Alfred Harmsworth (Lord Northcliffe) commissioned Rudyard Kipling (1865-1935) to pen an appropriately themed poem celebrating the British soldier and commenting upon his lot. The result, The Absent Minded Beggar, was an instant hit with the British public and became widely known throughout the British Empire in the winter of 1899.

The poem was set to music by Sir Arthur Sullivan and was performed nightly in theatres and music halls across the land. The battle artist and illustrator Richard Caton Woodville gave form to The Absent Minded Beggar by creating the iconic two dimensional image which quickly adorned a range of items that were sold in aid of various funds. Moreover the silversmiths and Royal warrant holders Mappin &Webb acquired the copyright to Caton Woodvill’e design and produced an edition of bronzes for sale at their showrooms in Oxford Street, London, Victoria Street, London, the Royal Works, Norfolk Street, Sheffield and at St Anne’s Square, Manchester.

The Daily Mail’s efforts were extended to the creation of the Absent Minded Beggar Relief Corps to aid wounded soldiers and sailors and their families on their return to England, and to send medical supplies and comforts to South Africa.  Moreover the Mail’s reporting of associated human interest stories elicited yet more donations from readers. By March 1900, the fund had swelled to nearly £100,000, reaching a final total of £250,000.

Richard Caton Woodville (1856-1927) was the son of an American artist. He studied at the Dusseldorf School under the Prussian military artist Wilhelm Camphausen, and before studying in Russia and then Paris. He spent most of his career working for the Illustrated London News where he quickly developed a reputation as a talented reporter and writer, but was also published in Cornhill Magazine, Strand Magazine, and The Tatler. He experienced battle first-hand when he was sent by the ILN to report upon the Russo-Turkish War (1877–1878), and then again in the Anglo-Egyptian War of  1882. He exhibited regularly at the Royal Academy, where 21 of his immensely popular battle paintings were shown.

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