ABOVE: The bronze base of the Titanic Cherub is all that has been found and brought to the surface to date. The 'footprints' are outlined, and one can see the mounting bolt holes that held the cherub to the base. The large hole in the heel area was where the electric wiring entered the hollow cast cherub figure. Other holes were for mounting the ensemble to the
oak pedestal. It is easy to see how the figure would have detached from the base in the violence of the sinking.
The smaller, "less famous brother" of the
forward Grand Staircase cherub was recovered
in an expedition of 1987. Apparently, it decorated the Titanic's aft first-class staircase.
The famous forward Grand Staircase Cherub, colorized for delineation.
The Titanic Grand Staircase Cherub
The Titanic's Famous Cherub
The colorized photo above shows the elegant bronze and gilt cherub of the Titanic's forward Grand Staircase mounted on the central newel post at the bottom of the stairs. This cherub became more famous with the release of James Cameron's box office-breaking movie Titanic. It made the perfect romantic background character as Leonardo DiCaprio's, Jack Dawson, wooed Kate Winslet's, Rose, on the Grand Staircase. This large cherub is sometimes confused with a smaller cherub that was brought up from the ocean floor. Aside from its smaller scale, that less famous cherub was sculpted in a younger, "infant style" with straighter hair, not curly hair. The smaller cherub was rescued from the debris field (sans lamp and left foot) in an expedition of 1987. It was exhibited from February 2015 until Labor Day 2015 at the Titanic: Artifact Exhibit museum at the Luxor hotel in Las Vegas.
It is believed that the First-Class staircases on Titanic were identical to that of her sister ship Olympic. Much of the sister ships interiors were designed and fitted by the same teams of craftsmen and artisans, as the two ships were constructed at nearly the same time. The interiors of the ships were designed by Aldam, Heaton & Co., who had previously worked on other White Star Line vessels and had also carried out interior design on the homes of White Star Line chairman J. Bruce Ismay and his family. Many of the ships' interiors were designed by the architect Arthur Henry Durand, who had studied architecture in Brussels in the early 1890s, and was involved with the design of the La Tour Eiffel in Paris. He worked for both the White Star Line and the Peninsular & Oriental Steam Navigation Company.
Actually these photos were all taken of the Olympic's staircase elements, since no known photos from the Titanic's Grand Staircase exist. It is believed that the Belfast 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.
Palace of Versailles Prototype
In La Belle Époque, it was common to look to France's palaces for inspiration. Both the interior and exterior of Versailles were rich with sculptural examples. The RMS Titanic cherub was clearly based on a figure with cornucopia-styled torch found in a trio grouping of children at a corner of one of the vast rectangular reflecting ponds known as The Water Parterres or Le Parterre d'Eau (The Water Terrace). The Olympic Class ships gained the benefits of the brilliant designer of much of Versailles' painting and sculpture, Charles Le Brun, and the modeling by sculptor Pierre Granier. Titanic's sculptor modified the torch to hold a glass flambeau shade fitted with an electric lamp. From 1687 to 1694, the Keller brothers, founders, cast the bronzes for The Water Terrace, in the Arsenal of Paris.
Titanic cherub's Royal prototype
Pierre Granier's L'enfant avec la Torche on Le Parterre d'Eau at Versailles is a near twin (though larger) to the Olympic/Titanic cherubs. Alan St. George measures the height, while respected Chicago photographer, Dan Rest, takes 250 photos all around the statue across the extremely long Bassin du Nord with a telephoto lens.
Views of the first-class staircases found on both the Titanic and Olympic ships featured the same style of cherub. It's easy to tell which staircase you are looking at if you note in the photo the smaller style clock and the cherub holding the torchiere aloft with his right arm are the aft staircase. On the forward Grand Staircase, he holds it up with his left hand, and of course the clock (above photo) dominates the wall of the landing and includes the magnificent Honour and Glory Crowning Time with all of its elaborate ornamental surround. The fore and aft staircase cherubs were very likely a 'left' and 'right' set of twins. This becomes apparent when the image of the aft cherub is reversed and compared with the more famous twin brother of the forward staircase. Read about the recreation...
ABOVE: Titanic's aft Grand Staircase cherub "flipped" reveals it was a twin to the one on the forward staircase and its Versailles predecessor.
The Movie Versions
"Time is Money" and movies have budgets, so shortcuts have to be taken. As a result, the cherub recreated for James Cameron's TITANIC is not a faithful replica, nor does it have much grace or elegance.
On the other hand, A NIGHT TO REMEMBER, does have a figure fully possessing the wonderful grace and charm of La Belle Époque, . That's because the set decorator picked up a genuine newel post lampadaire sculpture of the period. Unfortunately, it was not a cherub, however, but an adult male figure.
Black & White image is of the newel post lamp meant to depict the 'cherub' of Titanic's Grand Staircase in A NIGHT TO REMEMBER (1958).
Color image of the cherub prop from James Cameron's film TITANIC (1997) conveys the stiffness and awkwardness of the figure.
Sadly, the permanent venues around the world that offer recreations of the Grand Staircase, come up short regarding our little cherub friend.
Without a doubt the worst offender is Titanic Belfast. This venue advertising itself as "The World's Leading Tourist Attraction," depicts the cherub as an ugly creature, lacking all of the beauty and elegance of the original figure.
Cherub 'recreation' from Belfast's Grand Staircase lacks the beauty and elegance of Titanic's cultural heritage.
The newel post lamp appears to be a variation on Emile Picault's famous late 19c bronze entitled: "Le Rameau du Travail."
We are putting our time and money "where our mouth is" and replicating the full-sized Titanic cherub as it was originally and most beautifully planned...or really that is for you to judge. In any case, this is our third recreation of this figure. We have made two smaller scale versions as a 'warm-up.' Now, after a trip to Europe researching the origins, and lots of consultation with Ken Marschall and our team of Titanic experts, we have embarked on this noble project. watch the video