The Titanic Grand Staircase
Not called the Grand Staircase?
There were actually two grand staircases constructed on the RMS Titanic and her sister ship, the RMS Olympic, and both were in the first-class section. However, it is the fore grand staircase that is the most famous. Perhaps this is because the fore staircase was grander as evidenced in the often reproduced photo shown at the top of our page. Actually these photos were all taken of the Olympic...no known photos from the Titanic's Grand Staircase exist. It is believed that the ship builder, Harland and Wolff, saw no reason to photograph the Titanic's interiors since they had already gone through this expense for her virtual twin, the RMS Olympic. The term "grand staircase" was not an official designation used by Harland and Wolff, or the White Star Line. Construction drawings show "XNN Class Main Stairway."
Certainly, it cannot be denied that James Cameron’s epic film Titanic has made the Grand Staircase even more famous. In the film, the Grand Staircase with its beautiful clock became, not only an iconic symbol of the vessel, but a deeply romantic symbol at that. The lower class character, Jack Dawson, played by actor Leonardo DiCaprio, secretly passed that famous handwritten note to upper class Rose, played by Kate Winslet, with the enscribed words: "Meet me at the clock." The staircase and the clock, representation of Edwardian upper class civility, achievement, and entitlement, become the meeting place for an act of societal and parental rebellion. This dramatic dynamic, combined with youth, beauty, true love...and the doomed ship, provided explosive romance never-to-be-forgotten.
The Grand Staircase was for the use of the first class passengers and descended from the first-class boat deck promenade to the lower first-class reception and dining room. It was constructed of red oak. The balustrade featured beautiful wrought iron balusters with gilded bronze (ormolu) ornamentation, and polished brass toe-kicks on the top edge of the risers. A number of the newel posts were adorned with large carved oak finials, commonly known as the Titanic pineapple finials.
The 60ft high, 16ft wide staircase featured a mix of architectural influences with the oak panelling being of English William and Mary style and the ironwork reminiscent of the French Louis XIV period. The beautiful white oak clock on the fore staircase is believed to be by sculptor Charles Wilson, and dominated the wall at the staircase landing. The angelic carved figures representing “Honour and glory crowning time” flanked a pedestal holding a clock. Garlands, ribbons, festoons, cherub head capitals, pilasters, griffins, and other elaborate details enframed the central clock panel. The whole construction was lit by a huge ironwork and glass dome overhead which allowed natural light to flood in. At the foot of the divided Grand Staircase, a newel post topped with a large bronze statue of a cherub holding a cornucopia topped by a flambeau glass lamp shade. The Titanic's Grand Staircase cherub has not yet been found, although remarkably it's base has.
Louis XIV-inspired decoration puts the 'grand' in Grand Staircase through the style of the wood carvings, balustrades, and the famous cherubs on Titanic, Olympic, and Britannic. Charles Le Brun the illustrious founding member of the Royal Academy of Painting and Sculpture in 1648, was appointed by The Sun King to design much of Versailles' painting and sculpture. The large Grand Staircase cherubs were nearly identical copies of one figure in a trio of children found in Le Parterre d'Eau (the Water Terrace) at Versailles. The Olympic Class ships gained the benefits of Le Brun's design for the figure, and the modeling by master sculptor Pierre Granier (c1685). Titanic's sculptor modified the torch to hold a glass flambeau shade fitted with an electric lamp.
"Meet me at the clock."
The Sun King Lights the Way
We painted a store-bought dollhouse figure to resemble Leonardo DiCaprio recreating this iconic image from James Cameron's TITANIC. We hope it makes you smie.