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The Crowning Glory

Dora Gordine (1895-1991)


Signed and numbered 2/6


Leicester Galleries, London, November 1949;
'A Century of British Art: 1945-2010', Chris Beetles Gallery, 5 October-6 November 2021, No 199

The Crowning Glory was commissioned in 1947 by Eugène Ltd, 'perfecters of the permanent wave', as its trade symbol.
Following the end of the second world war, Dora Gordine consolidated her reputation as one of the leading sculptors working in Britain. The variety of commissions that she received during the late 1940s and 1950s is highlighted by the present work.
In 1947, Gordine was asked to produce a sculpture that would act as a trade symbol for Eugène Ltd, a company specialising in hair care products that described itself as ‘perfecters of the permanent wave’. In order to achieve a suitable expression of the company’s aesthetic, she drew on her studies of female temple dancers in Bali that she had made in the mid 1930s, while she was living in British Malaya. The resulting figure sits calmly in a cross-legged position while playing elegantly with her hair. It is her hair – arranged in a combination of tresses and top-knot – that is proverbially her ‘crowning glory’.
Eugène Ltd launched this new trade symbol in March 1947, at its stand at the Ideal Home Exhibition, organised by the Daily Mail and held at Olympia, in west Kensington. Its presentation related to a competition, with £3000 worth of prizes, to find the most fashionable hairstyle using the Eugène perm, which was widely publicised in the press, including the company’s own magazine, The Eugène Waver.
Gordine’s bronze sculpture, produced in an edition of six, also became the prototype for 50 gilded plaster models surmounting an advertisement for ‘Registered Eugène waves’, which were intended to adorn the windows of ladies’ hairdressers. It is said that she reacted negatively to this cheapening of her concept, and it was possibly her desire to reclaim a more dignified status for the original that led her to include it in her fifth and last solo show held at the Leicester Galleries in november 1949.
Whoever chose the title, ‘Crowning Glory’, for Gordine’s trade symbol, the name proved a success for Eugène Ltd. By the 1950s, the company was marketing a number of its products under that name, including a cream described as an ‘instant hair glamorizer’.
Eugène Ltd had been founded in 1919 by Eugène Sutter, a swiss hairdresser and wig stylist, with a fashionable ladies’ salon in London’s West End. Building on earlier techniques for creating a permanent wave, he worked with the spaniard, Isidoro Calvete, to produce an advanced electrical heating apparatus, which he then patented under his own name. As the company expanded internationally, it became involved in conflicts with others regarding patenting. However, it proved very successful, and continues to flourish as Eugène Perma

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