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Author Topic: Diana memorial proto-design by David Cornell  (Read 2606 times)

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Offline <k>

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Diana memorial proto-design by David Cornell
« on: October 09, 2012, 05:13:31 PM »


UK five pound Diana Memorial coin, 1999.



In August 1997, Diana, Princess of Wales died in a car accident in Paris. She was an icon not only in Britain but also around the world. After a decent interval, the Royal Mint issued a memorial coin in her honour, in 1999. British artist and sculptor David Cornell rose magnificently to the occasion, producing a superb portrait of the princess, which captures the essence of Diana in her beauty, sensitivity and vulnerability.

Offline <k>

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Re: Diana memorial proto-design by David Cornell
« Reply #1 on: October 09, 2012, 05:32:11 PM »


An image of David Cornell's plaster model of his original design.



I recently corresponded with Mr Cornell by email, and he was kind enough to discuss the history of his portrait with me. I asked him how much leeway he was given in his artistic treatment of such a sensitive subject. This is his reply:

"My original design for the Diana Memorial coin, showing a portrait with roses and a candle, was rejected as too sentimental, but I thought it absolutely captured the public feeling and would have been very popular. However, the selection committee preferred my portrait, which was not just a copy from a photograph but a study from many images and one personal meeting with Princess Diana. So I was asked to remove all but the portrait and just add the dates."

Mr Cornell very kindly sent me an image of his original design, which you can see above. I am very grateful to him for his permission to display on our forum a work of such historical importance and interest. It is in itself a superb design, which includes Diana's family arms (she was originally Lady Diana Spencer), as well as an ornate scroll bearing the birth and death years of her short life. Then there are the roses, recalling the many floral tributes placed after her death, by mourners from around the world.

Was the Royal Mint right to request changes to the design? Both versions have their strengths, and it is fascinating to see the design that might have been.

 
« Last Edit: August 26, 2017, 09:37:42 AM by <k> »

Offline <k>

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Re: Diana memorial proto-design by David Cornell
« Reply #2 on: October 09, 2012, 05:48:41 PM »

David Cornell's plaster model of his finished design.



Here is an image of Mr Cornell's final plaster, shown here with the artist's kind permission.



See also: David Cornell, Coin Designer

 
« Last Edit: August 26, 2017, 09:38:09 AM by <k> »

Offline <k>

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Re: Diana memorial proto-design by David Cornell
« Reply #3 on: October 09, 2012, 05:48:55 PM »
So there you have it, a world exclusive on the World of Coins. What do our members think of this alternative design?

Offline Bimat

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Diana memorial proto-design by David Cornell
« Reply #4 on: October 09, 2012, 05:53:29 PM »
I have the BU example of this coin (and also a PNC with some beautiful stamps) and I like it a lot. However I find the original design (with flowers) more attractive. Thanks for sharing. :)

Aditya
« Last Edit: October 10, 2012, 07:59:26 AM by Bimat »
Caution. The low-hanging fruits are still there maybe for a reason.

Offline chrisild

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Re: Diana memorial proto-design by David Cornell
« Reply #5 on: October 09, 2012, 07:08:40 PM »
Maybe David Cornell was - like many others - moved by Elton John's performance. He sang "Candle in the Wind" but used the words "Goodbye England's Rose". And on the first design we see that ...

Also, I have wondered about the words "In memory of" on the issued coin. Huh? Isn't pretty every commem (that is dedicated to a person) issued in memory of that person? But, I guess the government/mint wanted the text to go all along the rim.

Currently I'd say that I like the design with the flowers better. But that could be one of those cases when you compare a coin that you have seen fairly often and, for the first time, an "alternative" - and immediately find the alternative more interesting. :)

Other minor details: What I never liked much about the "younger Diana" was the way she held her head down a little. Later she did not really do that any more as far as I can tell. And yet the minted piece shows her head in a position that is different from the original design. Also, I wonder why the double earring had to be "reduced" to a single one.

And those eyelashes in the plaster models ... gone. (sniff)

Christian

Offline Figleaf

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Re: Diana memorial proto-design by David Cornell
« Reply #6 on: October 10, 2012, 01:30:04 AM »
I'd go with the simple portrait on the coin, though I find the shortening of the ear ring pretty trivial. The portrait is ex-centric, which is fine, but the ribbon and roses add another ex-centricity, making the whole a bit busy. The solution of using the dates to bring back some balance in the overall design appeals to me. I understand Mr. Cornell's wish to use roses, but wonder if a single rose would not have done the job better, getting rid of the heraldics in the process.

So many coins show so horribly clearly how difficult it is to get a portrait right on a coin. This portrait is an exception. Diana is recognizable at a glance (shouldn't that be the lowest benchmark for a figurative portrait?) I wonder if working with several images has helped Mr. Cornell to capture the true face of his subject. Maybe he's on to something...

Peter
An unidentified coin is a piece of metal. An identified coin is a piece of history.

Offline Prosit

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Re: Diana memorial proto-design by David Cornell
« Reply #7 on: October 10, 2012, 01:55:57 AM »
While I like the roses very much I do find they distract the focus somewhat from the subject so for me the simplier is the stronger image. I too find the shortening of the ear ring fairly trivial but again the simplier jewelry strengthens the focus slightly. I would have preferred the "In memory of" to have been omitted and the inscription re-balanced but that may or may not have been an option for the artist. No doubt David Cornell is a master at his craft.

Dale



I'd go with the simple portrait on the coin, though I find the shortening of the ear ring pretty trivial. The portrait is ex-centric, which is fine, but the ribbon and roses add another ex-centricity, making the whole a bit busy. The solution of using the dates to bring back some balance in the overall design appeals to me. I understand Mr. Cornell's wish to use roses, but wonder if a single rose would not have done the job better, getting rid of the heraldics in the process.

So many coins show so horribly clearly how difficult it is to get a portrait right on a coin. This portrait is an exception. Diana is recognizable at a glance (shouldn't that be the lowest benchmark for a figurative portrait?) I wonder if working with several images has helped Mr. Cornell to capture the true face of his subject. Maybe he's on to something...

Peter

Offline FosseWay

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Re: Diana memorial proto-design by David Cornell
« Reply #8 on: October 10, 2012, 08:00:35 AM »
I had always thought that the issued portrait of Diana looked a bit 'top heavy', as if there was too much hair, 80s-style. But actually I think that impression probably comes from the fact that she's leaning forwards a bit and looking down, as the hair on the original design doesn't look so top-heavy. As regards the other aspects of the design, I think the simpler one is better, but agree that 'In memory of' is probably superfluous. I wonder if it was an almost subconscious addition to clearly differentiate the two sides of the coin, since on the other side the Queen is there with (essentially) just her name. I wonder whether it was felt there had to be an explicit reason why someone other than the Queen featured on a coin.

Offline <k>

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Re: Diana memorial proto-design by David Cornell
« Reply #9 on: October 10, 2012, 11:30:53 PM »
Looking at the original design, I agree with Figleaf that it is "rather busy". I would have restricted the flowers to the right-hand side of the field, and removed those on the left-hand side. And yet, what marvellous flowers, so beautifully sculpted and arranged. Who would have thought that an ex-marine would show such sensitivity and capability? I would also have removed the part of the scroll or banner that overlays the flowers, and restricted it largely to the part that shows Diana's life dates.

I also like the inclusion of the family crest, the exactness of its depiction, and the contrast of the diamond shape with the softer flowers. However, Diana's head, and the crest along with it, are far too close too the legend for my liking. I would haved move them further up and to the right, which would also fill in some of that large empty space. But that portrait of Diana is just astounding. It catches her more mature self to perfection. Among numismatic portraits, I regard it as a classic.

And yet, even with all those changes, and for all the skill, artistry and beauty of the original design, I still prefer the issued design. It is less busy, and has a pristine, classic look to it, which befits a memorial. I like Fosseway's perceptive comments on the reason (deliberate, not subconscious, I should think) for the inclusion of the words "IN MEMORY OF": to differentiate the reverse from the obverse, which also bears a royal portrait.



The coin is meant to commemorate a life, but the original design, as superb as it is, seems to speak only of the events surrounding Diana's death. The candle had an immediate meaning for our forum member Christian, who recalled Elton John's song in her honour. Christian is German and not British, and as someone who is British, I can say that, though we will have seen similar scenes on TV, those that were playing out with certain parts of the public, and particularly in a certain part of Britain, were alien to my experience. I went about my business as usual, and few people at work or in my social circle spoke much about what had happened.

So the seeming hysteria of that period did not touch my life. Or scarcely. Changing trains in London shortly after her death, I checked the station monitor, only to read: "This monitor has been switched off, as a mark of respect to the late Diana, Princess of Wales". You couldn't have made it up! When I told a work colleague, he sighed and commented sarcastically, "Yes - it's 'what she would have wanted' - isn't it?"

Certainly the events after her death were dramatic, and I followed them closely on TV and in the press: how the Queen felt pressured to return to London and to lower her flag (against all past tradition and protocol), the public grief of certain members of the public (and the flowers!), the pomp of the funeral, with Elton John's song, and Earl Spencer's angry funeral speech and the reaction to it. All of which later inspired a thoughtful film, entitled "The Queen" (released in 2006).

Before Diana's death, the rift between Diana and Charles had been a thorn in the side of the British establishment and caused great controversy, which polarised politicians and the public alike. Certainly it is true to say that Diana was not universally loved in Britain. She could appear devious, vindictive and immature. Yet she was also a troubled woman. But after her divorce she seemed to mature and become her own person, yet still she was hounded by the media. She was also the regular butt of tasteless jokes on TV comedy programmes. So it was tragic that she died just as she seemed to have found peace and happiness in her life. The nature of her death was sudden and spectacular and almost guaranteed to generate conspiracy theories. It certainly rocked the royal family at the time.

Years later, the royal family has recovered its popularity and its serenity. That formerly shadowy figure, Camilla Parker-Bowles, is now the Duchess of Cornwall and has been accepted into public life by a forgiving nation - and by Diana's sons. The scenes around Diana's death now seem to belong to a different era. When the Royal Mint Advisory Committee recommended changes to Mr Cornell's design, they were looking ahead to a more serene future, when the coin would still be around but the nation would have come to terms with and transcended the specific circumstances of Diana's death.

Diana was a complex person, and certainly in many ways an extraordinary one - why else would she have become a world icon? So it is right that her memorial coin should transcend the particular circumstances of her death. Yet Mr Cornell's original design was still a remarkable one, historically resonant and a marvellous work of art in its own right. But if his original design was remarkable, his ultimate design proved to be a classic. It is proudly owned by millions of Diana's admirers, most of whom would never look twice at a coin, but who instantly recognised Diana in Mr Cornell's timeless portrait and were eager to acquire such an outstandingly fitting tribute and a superb work of art.

Offline <k>

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Re: Diana memorial proto-design by David Cornell
« Reply #10 on: October 18, 2012, 03:20:47 PM »


Thinking about Mr Cornell's original design of Diana a little more, it occurred to me that British coins commemorating royal occasions are usually quite ornate, particularly if a royal woman is involved. I can imagine Mr Cornell having the brainwave that, instead of just including ornamental flowers, at which he excels, he could include flowers with a specific reference to a specific occasion.

To make my point about royal commemoratives being ornate, and commemoratives involving royal women being even more so, look at the illustration above. It shows Mr Cornell's model for the Falklands 50 pence design of 2001, which commemorates the Queen's 75th birthday. Look at the skill and artistry with which Mr Cornelll depicts that beautiful floral wreath. The design is certainly ornate, but not too ornate, as the different elements of the design are well balanced, and to my eyes the floral wreath looks just perfect.

 
« Last Edit: August 26, 2017, 09:38:35 AM by <k> »

Offline <k>

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Re: Diana memorial proto-design by David Cornell
« Reply #11 on: August 31, 2017, 11:53:57 AM »
Today is a good time to remind ourselves of this proto-design.