WINSTON Churchill has returned to Blenheim Palace – as an uncannily lifelike waxwork wearing made-to-measure replicas of the wartime leader’s hat, clothes and shoes.
The new artwork, unveiled today at Churchill’s birthplace, has been created by Jethro Crabb, who spent eight years at Madame Tussaud’s, sculpting famous faces and travelling the world to meet and measure celebrities.
The sculpture is the centrepiece of the major new ‘Churchill’ exhibition at the magnificent country house in Woodstock, Oxfordshire, a World Heritage Site.
Crabb’s recent work has included wax figures of US presidents Joe Biden and Donald Trump, as well as creating characters for the revival of the satirical Spitting Image TV show.
Now working on private commissions, he and his team, including artist Sue Day, spent four months bringing Churchill to life for the new exhibition which opens on Monday May 17.
The former Prime Minister’s tailor, hatter, optician and shoemaker all provided items of clothing made to the original measurements to add authenticity to the finished figure.
After the head was finished, each hair was inserted individually, right down to Churchill’s eyebrows. Then Day painstakingly built up skin tone, using layers of oil colour.
“It was a huge honour to be asked to make this model for Blenheim Palace,” says Crabb. “It was quite a daunting process and I felt the weight of responsibility on my shoulders.
“There was a lot of research, using documents and images; there were discussions on his pose and expression. I wanted him to be warm and welcoming, and to reflect that personal side of the man.
“Now, I’m really looking forward to seeing what the public think about him when the exhibition opens.”
The exhibition will trace Churchill’s life from birth, including many previously unseen images and artefacts. One particular piece is his wartime Despatch Box, still locked and perhaps containing secret documents.
As well as the chance to stand before the waxwork at the end of the exhibition trail, there’s a mock-up of the door to 10 Downing Street for selfies.
Born at Blenheim on November 30, 1874, Churchill returned often during his long life for parties, to paint and to spend time with his cousin and close friend ‘Sunny’, 9th Duke of Marlborough.
He chose to propose to his wife, Clementine, at Blenheim, and some of the love letters the two exchanged are included in the exhibition, which traces his life and times.
Before he died on January 24, 1965, he had made it clear that he wanted to be buried at nearby St Martin’s church in Bladon. Wife Clemmie was buried next to him upon her death on December 12, 1977.
The exhibition will be located in an area of the Palace overlooking the Water Terraces, used as an artist’s studio by the wartime leader.
Advance booking is advised. For details of opening hours, admission prices and another new exhibition, ‘The Stables’, tracing the role horses have played on the estate, plus Covid advice, see www.blenheimpalace.com.