Saturday, December 10, 2016

Of Busts And Life Masks

I have switched out my header image for something more fitting for winter. This new header is from last winter at Rideau Falls.

These busts in Laurier House caught my eye as I was visiting.


This room on the top floor was my favourite in the house. Laurier used it for a billiards room. Mackenzie King turned it into his study, and it has been left in that state ever since. He pretty much ran the country from here. There are books on the table registering guests, including Churchill and Roosevelt, who stayed here at various points during the war. Three of Churchill's cigars are in a box on the table as well. There's even a crystal ball in this room, in plain sight, but easily overlooked, as it was the Parks Canada guide who pointed it out to me. Aside from being a Scots Protestant, Mackenzie King had an interest in spiritualism, and was known to try to communicate with the dead. There's a story about him chatting with a visitor in which he mentioned speaking with President Roosevelt the previous evening. The visitor asked, "you mean President Truman?" The Prime Minister smiled and said, "no, President Roosevelt." He'd wanted his personal papers destroyed after his death, but they weren't, and much of his interest in spiritualism was thus revealed to the nation at large. He was a brilliant leader, and something of an eccentric character. I expect I'd have liked him a lot.


King displayed this proclamation with great pride up here- a reward for the arrest of his grandfather, William Lyon Mackenzie, for whom he was named. Mackenzie had been a journalist, politician, and leader of the 1837 rebellions, and for a time he had been a wanted man. 


Churchill's presence can be found on the mantle in the room across the hall. Mackenzie King used this as his breakfast room- and perhaps for all meals when he wasn't entertaining visitors- and the small bust of the great British leader can be seen on the right in this shot. On the radio at the left stands the CBC microphone that was among the many used when Edward VIII announced his abdication. During the Laurier days, this room was quarters to the chief housekeeper.


There's something else in this room that seems an oddity. If you look down from the above view, you find a case containing a plaster life mask and hands of Abraham Lincoln, cast in 1860, before the Republican nomination. It is a remarkable thing, looking at his face in a three dimensional way. This set is one of four known copies- the Smithsonian has one, and one of the others is right here in the home of two prime ministers, having had been in the possession of the Liberal Party of Canada since the latter 19th century. The work was done by artist Leonard Volk, from before Lincoln had a beard. It's a Lincoln whose face is yet untouched by the ravages of four years of civil war, but which lie before him- a stark contrast to another life mask that was done in early 1865. His hands convey strength, which is understandable- though he was years removed from those days, he'd done a lot of physical work in his younger days while learning the law, and that strength never left the Great Emancipator.

28 comments:

  1. LOVE the header.

    That first picture is scary.

    Happy Snowy Weekend !!!!

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  2. The first bust is scary. I like the breakfast room.

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  3. love your header shot ... that is way cool. cold & icy. perfect shot! ( ;

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  4. Nice headers, yes. We eccentrics need to unite, LOL

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  5. Great new header, William!
    At the last picture it looks like Lincold is standing in a scaffold ... quite scary, I think.

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  6. I can see why you were intrigued by the busts William, some are a wee bit spooky ☺

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  7. What a grand place; so much history and I'm intrigued by the Churchill connection!
    I know people who talk to the dead on a regular basis. They appear quite sane. And super intelligent. LOVE your new header, but it looks soooooo cold!

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  8. Brrrrr....your new header gave me a chill! ;-)

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  9. @Whisk: I have no idea how they get that veiled effect with marble.

    @Nancy: you wonder what it would be like to see it late at night.

    @Beth: it was time for a winter header, especially now that the snow seems to be sticking in place.

    @Cloudia: definitely!

    @Jan: it does have a stockade kind of feel to it. Apparently the artist did the molds for these on two different occasions in the run up to the Republican nomination in 1860.

    @Grace: indeed!

    @Lowell: it was a cold day.

    @Sharon: that's the idea!

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  10. It sounds like you could make a long and detailed series of posts on this house and it's history. King was an interesting character.

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  11. Your header is lovely, William. I found the first photo a little creepy! :)

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  12. I get cold just looking at your new header photo!

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  13. Isn't that veiled woman supposed to represent Veronica? Great post!

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  14. The new header is awesome, I love it. The plaster life mask and hands of Lincoln is quiet different from the image we are familiar with. Nice photos William.

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  15. That Lincoln mask is certainly odd!

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  16. Your header reminds me of the ice I spotted on the trail earlier today--first of the season!

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  17. The last photo really grabs your attention.
    Great new header!

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  18. @Red: he was!

    @Linda: that seems to be a consensus.

    @Norma: that's the idea!

    @Eve: thanks!

    @Bill: it is so different from looking at photographs of the man.

    @RedPat: I wonder how it came into Liberal hands.

    @Revrunner: here we now have well established snow.

    @Marleen: thanks!

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  19. That is a beautiful veiled bust. ---and your banner, oh, so cold....

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  20. Your first photo is fascinating. And the Lincoln life mask is equally so. I never knew such images of him existed.

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  21. Everything was great about this one except the header. Unless we have an ice age, I will never experience anything like that again.

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  22. Hmm, I guess if you want your papers destroyed you should do it yourself!

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  23. There is a lot of history in that place. Very intersting!

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  24. Interesting place. I had no idea there were life busts of Lincoln. Very nice pictures, as always.

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  25. Fascinating, especially that last photo!

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  26. @Pat: very cold!

    @Catalyst: it's quite a contrast from his 1865 life mask, done a few weeks before he died.

    @Mari: it's typical winter here. I should go up that way soon and see what the falls are like this winter.

    @Linda: definitely!

    @MDP: it is, yes.

    @Lorelei: it's neat having one here.

    @Lois: indeed!

    @Jennifer: thanks!

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  27. Lincoln was also a wrestler. He won 299 matches out of 300. That is quite a record.

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