A Pair of Presentation Portrait Photographs of the Viceroy and Vicerene of India, 1931
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Each: 24.2cm (9.5in) x 17.1cm (6.7in)
Full length black and white portraits of Edward Frederick Lindley Wood, Lord Irwin, later 1st Earl of Halifax (1881-1959) and his wife Dorothy Evelyn Augusta Wood, Lady Irwin, later Countess of Halifax (1885-1976), presented in bespoke matching easel backed burr mahogany frames by the Goldsmiths & Silversmiths Company, each surmounted by individual cyphers and coronets in silver. Lady Irwin’s image signed in her hand ‘Dorothy Irwin’; Lord Irwin’s autographed ‘Irwin / 1931’.
The portraits date to the tumultuous final months of Irwin’s term of office as Viceroy. Caught between the demands of Indian political leaders and the British Government’s refusal to deliver on its vague promise of dominion status, Irwin used emergency powers to arrest Gandhi, ban public gatherings and crush rebellious opposition. Gandhi's detention, however, only exacerbated matters, forcing Irwin to sign the Delhi Pact in January 1931 by which civil disobedience and the boycott of British goods ended in exchange for a Round Table Conference. The fortnight-long discussions that followed resulted in the Gandhi-Irwin Pact, after which the Indian Civil Disobedience Movement was suspended. On 20 March 1931, Irwin paid tribute to Gandhi's honesty, sincerity and patriotism at a dinner given by ruling princes. A month later Irwin left office, leaving India calm, but within a year the pact collapsed and Gandhi was again arrested.
Educated at Eton and Oxford, Irwin outlived three sickly brothers to succeed to his father’s viscountcy in 1934, being thenceforth known as Lord Halifax. Despite a withered arm and no left hand, he saw active service with the Yorkshire Dragoons during the First World War and was fond of bloodsports - a fact that endeared him to Reichjagermeister Goring. As Foreign Secretary between 1938 and 1940 he was seen as the principal figure in the appeasement of Germany that evolved from a peculiar sense of highmindedness, illustrated perhaps by his mistaking Hitler for a footman at their first meeting and almost handing him his coat. In December, 1940, Lord Halifax was replaced as foreign secretary by his long-term opponent, Anthony Eden. and became British ambassador to the United States.