Dame Sybil Thorndike

1 portrait on display in Room 33 at the National Portrait Gallery

Dame Sybil Thorndike, by Sir Jacob Epstein, 1925 - NPG 5976 - Photograph © National Portrait Gallery, London

Photograph © National Portrait Gallery, London

Dame Sybil Thorndike

by Sir Jacob Epstein
bronze bust, 1925
19 7/8 in. (505 mm) high
Given by the sitter's son, on behalf of the Casson family, John Casson, 1988
Primary Collection
NPG 5976


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Artistback to top

  • Sir Jacob Epstein (1880-1959), Sculptor. Artist of 14 portraits, Sitter in 67 portraits.

This portraitback to top

This portrait of the actress Sybil Thorndike was commissioned by her family to commemorate her performance as Joan of Arc in George Bernard Shaw's play Saint Joan, a role that had been specifically written for her. Her pose is very similar to that adopted in publicity shots for the production. Her eyes are fixed heavenward and her head strains forward, beyond the viewer, in a gesture of rapt attention, 'gazing skywards as if hearing voices '. This sense of divine mission is further emphasised by the height at which Epstein requested the bust be displayed: a minimum of five feet from the floor.

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Subjects & Themesback to top

Events of 1925back to top

Current affairs

On the advice of the Governor of the Bank of England, Montagu Norman, Winston Churchill returns British currency to the Gold Standard. This caused deflation across the empire as the value of the pound returned to the pre-war gold price, leading to unemployment, the miners' strike and the general strike in 1926.

Art and science

John Logie Baird transmits the first television images of a ventriloquist's dummy. The BBC used Logie Baird's invention from 1927 until 1935 when they adopted EMI-Marconi's superior electronic scanning system. Virginia Woolf publishes her innovative 'stream of consciousness' novel, Mrs Dalloway, which chronicles a day in the life of the protagonist through her interior monologue.

International

Sir Joseph Austen Chamberlain, Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs represents Britain at the Locarno Treaties. Lorcano secured the post-war territorial settlement and established pledges of non-aggression between various European Nations. The 'spirit of Locarno' helped secure Germany's admission into the League of Nations in 1926. Chamberlain was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize for his part in the peace agreement.

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