A Gentleman in Kharki, 1899
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Height: 23cm (9in)
Bronze. Modelled as a British infantryman of the Boer War. The integral bronze base inscribed to the right rear corner Mappin & Webb, London, and titled to the leading edge ‘A Gentleman in Kharki’.
The origin of this figure lies in the South African War fund raising efforts of the newspaper magnate Lord Northcliffe. In 1899 he commissioned Rudyard Kipling (1865-1935) to write a verse celebrating the British soldier and commenting upon his lot. The result, The Absent Minded Beggar became widely known throughout the Empire and forever after a caricature of the archetypal British fighting man.
The poem was set to music by Sir Arthur Sullivan and given two dimensional form by the the battle artist Richard Caton Woodville (1856-1927). The iconic figure became widely known causing the prestigious London of Mappin & Webb then realized the present three dimensional version. It was this last that was revived in 1914, when once again fund raising efforts were enthusiastically launch. However gone was the pith helmet at the feet of the 1899 version; replaced instead with the 1905 pattern stiffened peak cap on the head that was bandaged in the original design. Gone too is the Lee-Metford of the South African War, replaced .303 Short Magazine Lee Enfield. Hybrid webbing, service dress, puttees and ammunition boots remain.
Richard Caton Woodville was the clubbable 19th century artist who made his mark as a war reporter and celebrated painter of military subjects. He trained at the Dusseldorf School under the Prussian military artist Wilhelm Camphausen, before studying in Russia and then Paris. A member of the Berkshire Yeomanry, he experienced battle first-hand when he was sent by the Illustrated London News 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 twenty-one of his immensely popular battle paintings were shown.