A Large Presentation Portrait of The Duke and Duchess of Windsor, 1941
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Overall: 52cm (20.5in) x 40cm (15.75in)
Three quarter length sepia toned studio portrait by Frank Turgeon, of Palm Beach, Florida. The Duke standing in naval uniform, the Duchess seated and wearing the 1938 Cartier ruby bracelet, her 40th birthday platinum diamond and ruby necklace. Signed in ink ‘Wallis Windsor’ and dated ‘Nassau / 1941’ in the Duchess’s hand and ‘Edward’ in the Duke’s hand. Studio blind stamp to the lower right corner of the image. Image: 34cm x 26.5cm. Signed in pencil lower right by the photographer. Contained in a velvet easel backed frame.
The present portrait was taken at a time when the Duke and Duchess of Windsor were under covert surveillance by the FBI on the express orders of President Roosevelt. The regally posed portrait was the work of fashionable Palm Beach photographer Frank Turgeon and was probably taken in April 1941 during the Windsors' second visit to the United States since taking up their wartime posting in the Bahamas. The visit coincided with the publication of a controversial article in Liberty magazine resulting from an interview given by the Duke at Government House, Nassau in December 1940. In it, the Duke implied that Britain could not defeat Germany and would have to reach a negotiated settlement with Hitler. Goebbels reacted gleefully to the article but noted in his diary ‘we decide not to use it for the present, so as to avoid suffocating this tender seedling of reason.’ Churchill offered respectful counsel but was rebuffed. The Duke for his part claimed he was misquoted by the American journalist.
The article was not the only cause for concern amongst the Allies. Dom Odo, formerly Duke Carl Alexander of Württemberg (then a monk in an American monastery) convinced the FBI that the Duchess had slept with the German ambassador in London, Joachim von Ribbentrop, in 1936, had remained in constant contact with him; and had continued to leak secrets. Most damning of all however was the widely espoused assertion that ‘the Windsors expected to return to England in high capacity - when England makes terms with Germany’.
Frank L. Turgeon, Jr., A.R.P.S. (b.1898) was a French Canadian portrait and architectural photographer, who trained in aerial photography during the First World War and honed his skills at the New York Photographic Institute. He operated studios in Johnstown, Pennsylvania; Potomac, Maryland; and in the winter months in the Paramount Building, Palm Beach, Florida. In 1934 Turgeon was hired by a Hollywood film studio to take aerial film and stills of Palm Beach. Such led to commissions taken from the air and included architectural work for Life magazine. In March 1939 the Palm Beach Daily News reported that Turgeon had acquired the technology to ‘photograph landscapes and personalities in natural color.’ The news brought celebrities and the resort’s socialites flocking to his door, and inducing him to take on extra staff. Turgeon’s wartime portrait of John F. Kennedy is displayed at the John F. Kennedy Library in Boston, Massachusetts.