March 19, 2016, by Paul Greatrix
Hopeless wartime satire – with a cigar
Sir Jesse Boot, early and principal benefactor of the University of Nottingham, has a great portrait which hangs in the University’s Council Room.
It really is one of my favourites. I was fascinated to learn though recently about this other portrait of Sir Jesse which was hanging in his house in Jersey and was defaced during World War II as reported by The Telegraph:
Nazi officers defaced a portrait of Sir Jesse Boot by sticking a cigar in his mouth to mock Sir Winston Churchill, the National Portrait Gallery has revealed.
The picture of Sir Jesse, owner of Boots the chemist, had a hole burned through its mouth during the Second World War, as German officers occupied his house in Jersey.
The portrait, now loaned to the gallery by the Walgreen Boots Alliance, has now been restored, with details of its history released as part of a major new project about the history of medicine.
It is one of a raft of documents released from the chemist’s archive, and shows the fate of the 1909 portrait paid for and presented to Sir Jesse by his grateful staff.
The painting, showing a serious-looking older man at his desk, had been hung in his family home in Jersey, where it remained after his death in 1931.
During the Second World War, the house was taken over by Nazi officers, with its content left to their mercies.
Research shows one or more used a lighted cigarette to burn a hole through the canvas near to Sir Jesse’s painted mouth, inserting a cigar into the charred hole to mock Sir Winston’s own smoking habits.
More details on the portrait can be found on the National Portrait Gallery site.
It’s not exactly the most devastating example of political satire. In fact it’s extremely lame and must have been seen by very few people indeed. In the absence of Photoshop, I guess their options were rather limited.