A humorous, illustrated account of Queen Victoria's funeral proceedings, created by Canadian art icon Emily Carr, is one of the more unusual lots up for auction this spring in Vancouver.
The Queen's Funeral will be sold at auction, May 28 in Vancouver, B.C.
A lot simply titled The Queen's Funeral — capturing the monarch's funeral procession in a journal of seven simply illustrated pages — is estimated to sell for more than $10,000, but that’s a modest sum for a work by the iconic West Coast artist.
The illustrations show that Carr, living in London at the time, was not the typical genteel Victorian lady. Meanwhile, the journal itself offers clues into Carr’s personal life at the time.
“It’s a fascinating look into her life and history,” said Robert Heffel, vice-president of Heffel Fine Art Auction House.
B.C.-born Carr has always been a collected and beloved Canadian artist for her striking totem pole paintings and enchanting illustrations of her travels abroad. But a lesser known fact is that Carr was also a talented writer, as seen in this humorous journal narrating one memorable day in London.
The journal comes from the Clarke family, which founded the publisher Clarke, Irwin and Company and released several of the artist's books. According to Heffel, the family acquired the journal directly from Carr or Carr’s estate. Though the firm never published the journal in its entirety, it did use one illustration for the first edition of Carr’s novel Growing Pains.
From Victoria to Victorian London
Carr made the journal when she was studying art and living at a ladies boarding house in London in 1901, the year of Queen Victoria's death.
According to the rhyming prose in the journal, Carr left the boarding house with her roommate, Kendal, to try to see the funeral procession, but it's a day when nothing goes according to plan. The pair are kicked off a trolley for not paying the fare, then engage in a fight with a police officer.
"Kendal pounded the poor Bobbey with all her puny might,” Carr writes.
When they finally reach the procession grounds, the friends turn out to be too short to see over the massive crowds and, ultimately, are only able to spot one funeral pall and the Kaiser.
After a day of standing in the cold streets, Carr returned home sick. In the journal, she vows: “mid a crowd in London, we would never go again.”
A Second Copy
"These types of journals fit into her overall career, even though they are more rare. They are a part of putting her life into context,” said Heffel.
Though rare, it turns out The Queen's Funeral isn't quite one of a kind but the second to come to light in recent years.
Unknown to Heffel, another journal with nearly identical drawings and inscriptions was brought to the Royal British Columbia Museum two years ago after decades on the other side of the world.
That journal belonged to Beatrice Hannah Kendal, the roommate with whom Carr spent that memorable day. Kendal gave it to her niece in Zimbabwe, who eventually brought it to Vancouver for an Emily Carr exhibit.
''If Carr liked what she’d done ... it wasn’t beyond her to repeat it in a close fashion and give it to someone else. And that’s probably what happened with The Queen’s Funeral - Ian Thom, Vancouver Art Gallery
Heffel wasn't the only one unaware of the practically identical journals. It was also a surprise to Ian Thom, senior curator at the Vancouver Art Gallery.
However, Thom — who knew of Kendal's version — says that making copies of paintings or illustrations wasn’t uncommon for the artist.
“If Carr liked what she’d done or felt that it was accessible, it wasn’t beyond her to repeat it in a close fashion and give it to someone else. And that’s probably what happened with The Queen’s Funeral,” he told CBC News.
Still, this is a unique case because Carr was known to replicate paintings, not journals, he added.
Unlike many of her other journals, The Queen’s Funeral is quite short and would have been easy for Carr to replicate. But she must have valued her roommate a great deal if she made Kendal a version, Thom said.
Despite subtle differences in the illustrations and text in the twin journals, it is virtually impossible to tell which is the original and which is the copy.
Heffel suggested that Carr may have made both journals at the same time. Thom said he believed the journal from the Clarke family (the one up for sale) would have been the one used in Growing Pains.
As for authenticity, Heffel has no doubts that both were created by Carr and isn’t concerned the existence of a copy will depreciate the value of the journal at auction.
"For me, it adds to the history. I think it’s fascinating, in a good way,” Heffel said.
"The fact that one’s in a museum continues to make both pieces rare.”