King George II of Greece - Signed Royal Presentation Portrait, 1942
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Overall: 25cm (9.75in) x 19.6cm (7.75in)
A head and shoulders portrait by George Fayer of King George II of Greece (1890-1947). Signed in the King's hand in ink on the image and dated on the mount ‘London Dec. 1942’, stamped on reverse ‘Fayer / Camera Portraits / London Studio: 66 Grosvenor Street / W.1.’ (175 x 120mm). Contained in original silver frame. Hallmarked London 1942.
The present portrait dates to the King of the Hellenes’ second exile in London - his first having been his prolonged residence at Brown’s Hotel in Albermarle Street between 1924 to 1935. In 1941 he fled Greece for Egypt and eventually London. Schooled in the disciplined ways of the Prussian Gardekorps (his great uncle was Kaiser Wilhelm II), King George remained the internationally recognised Greek head of state, backed by the government-in-exile and Greek forces serving in the Middle East. He was frequently at loggerheads with the British Foreign Office, but found a friend in Churchill, who was determined to see him restored and tended to back the king's complaints against his own officials. After a rival Communist-led government occupied Greece and a mutiny among the armed forces in the Middle East, it was agreed in the May 1944 that the fate of the monarchy would be decided in a national referendum. George resisted and tried to turn Churchill against the interim leader Archbishop Damaskinos, accusing him of being both a Communist and a Nazi collaborator. After a blazing row with Churchill and Eden at Downing Street in December 1944, George back tracked and accepted the Archbishop. In 1946 the monarchist parties won a clear majority and he returned to Greece only to find the Royal Palace looted, the surrounding woods chopped down for fuel and corpses buried in shallow graves outside. On account of his many exiles, he is said to have remarked that ‘the most important tool for a King of Greece is a suitcase.’
Georg Fayer (1892-1950) was an Austrian photographer, of Hungarian origin who came to London in 1936. He is cited as a onetime official photographer to the League of Nations alongside German-born American photographer Alfred Eisenstaedt. Fayer’s itinerant career seems to have mirrored the lives of several high profile sitters, including Wallis Simpson and Queen Wilhelmina of the Netherlands during her wartime exile in Britain. Fayer died in Cannes, France.