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Mrs Thatcher’s missing handbag and the case of the disappearing duck

13 April 2016

Introducing Rakewell, Apollo’s wandering eye on the art world. Look out for regular posts taking a rakish perspective on art and museum stories.

Handbags at dawn! Plans to install a statue of Margaret Thatcher outside the Houses of Parliament have been quashed after the former PM’s daughter, Carol, took exception to the design. Despite being one of the prime movers for the statue, London Mayor Boris Johnson has made it clear that it will not be erected without the consent of Thatcher’s family.

Fair enough. But why, Rakewell wonders, has the proposed effigy incurred Ms Thatcher’s displeasure? Speaking to the Daily Mail, Ivan Saxton of the Public Memorials Appeal Trust has shed light on the situation: ‘There was talk that she didn’t like it because it isn’t made of iron, but she doesn’t mind that it’s not made of iron. Carol’s upset that there’s no handbag.’

If the problem does indeed lie in the proposed statue’s accoutrements, Mrs Thatcher’s likeness is (figuratively speaking) in good company. Last week, a similar row erupted over a statue of railway engineer Sir Nigel Gresley at London’s King’s Cross station. Sculptor Hazel Reeves’s maquette for the work had included a duck waddling around at Sir Nigel’s feet in honour of the famous ‘Mallard’ steam locomotive he designed. Yet when the full-scale sculpture was unveiled earlier this month, the hapless avian was nowhere to be found – reportedly due to Gresley’s relatives’ fears that such an addition might appear demeaning.

Outrage ensued. ‘Which is the statue that you will make a pilgrimage to see?’ asked broadcaster Vanessa Feltz. ‘Which is the statue that you will take a picture of yourself next to: the one with the duck or the one without it? I’m 100% pro-duck.’ Campaigners are threatening to affix rubber ducks to the statue unless a commitment is made to restore the mooted mallard to its base. Perhaps the authorities involved might want to duck a public handbagging and accede to the will of the plaintiffs.

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