Leslie Caswell – additional piece

I’m always humbled when writing a little piece and sharing images, when I get responses!

Recently I have some correspondence with Peter Jones regarding Leslie Caswell and wanted to share what he said:

I have a fine pencil drawing by their father of the bust of Nefertiti in Berlin dated 1940. It belonged to my father who worked in the Admiralty during the war and the family story was that it was by someone he knew at that time. I found this blog today and it’s the first time I knew anything about Leslie Caswell. Thank you. Peter Jones

and then , after asking him if I could share the image, Peter said:

I have attached a photo of the drawing by Leslie Caswell of the ancient Egyptian sculpture of Nefertiti that is in Berlin. I don’t want to get the drawing out of its sealed glazed frame and it won’t fit on my scanner, so a photo with reflections will have to do for now. Sorry about that. I rather doubt Leslie Caswell could have been behind the scenes in Berlin in 1940 (or is there a story to be told?) so I wonder what prompted the drawing and what model he used. Best wishes Peter Jones

I searched and found Wikipedia has a nice article on this icon and I’ve pointed to the relevant section which tells us the bust was first displayed to the public in 1923 and then stored, during the war, in Berlin but in a secure location to avoid the British bombings. I’ve read The Berlin Diaries 1940-1945 of Marie Missie Vassiltchikov recently and they certainly make the reader feel the oppression of bombings. So the bust was first stored in the vault of the Prussian Governmental Bank (Die Preussische-staatsbank) which was dissolved by the Allies in 1947 (there’s some current speculation regarding the loss of the equity held in the bank at that time) and then moved in 1941 to a Flak Tower bunker – presumably in the Tiergarten. At the end of the war it was moved by the Americans from a salt mine at Merkers/ Kaiseroda to Wiesbaden. In 1956 it was returned to West Berlin.

Now the question is when did Caswell see the bust of Nefertiti? Did he visit Germany between 1923 and 1939 (the start of the War)? In 1937 he was in the Slade School of Art and in the summer of 1938 received his degree at the University of London. Is it feasible that, so close to the appeasement and then declaration of war, he was in Berlin? Then we know from his children he served initially in the Royal Artillery in Burma but “was slightly deafened by the 25 pounder guns under his command. He was reassigned as an official war artist in India recording the actions and personnel in the Burma campaign and also drew and painted many members of the British Forces, African regiments, Gurkhas, Indian scenes, beggars, villagers, Mahrajas and beautiful Tibetan women.” ~Hamilton Caswell

So I suspect it’s more likely Leslie Caswell saw it in a magazine or journal, as it was a ‘recent’ discovery – for the public at least – when he was studying at the Slade. A quick search of the Illustrated London News shows at least 27 articles mentioning the bust during 1930-1939 and the image below appeared in issue dated 6 May 1933 (and no, the image mentions the cover but that’s different from the version Caswell drew above!)

Thanks so much to Peter Jones for sharing this image.