Titanic artefacts to go on display at V&A ocean liners exhibition

Titanic (PA)
Titanic (PA)

THE largest remaining panel fragment from the first class lounge of the Titanic will return to the UK for the first time since the doomed ship sailed from Southampton in 1912 for a major new exhibition about the history of ocean liners.

It will be one of more than 250 objects, including paintings, sculptures and ship models, that will go on display at the V&A’s Ocean Liners: Speed & Style exhibition next year.

The wooden panel, which comes from where the Titanic broke in half as it sank, was found floating on the surface of the Atlantic after the sinking on April 14.

Wooden panel fragment from the Titanic (Martime Museum of the Atlantic)
Also on display will be a precious Cartier tiara owned by Lady Marguerite Allan, recovered from the sinking of the Lusitania in 1915, where two of her daughters drowned after the liner was struck by a German torpedo.

The tiara saved from the Lusitania (Cartier)
The exhibition will detail the history of cruise liners from 1850 to the rise of air travel and the maiden voyage of the Queen Elizabeth 2 in 1969, through their promotion, engineering, style and the lifestyle offered on board, as well as their influence on pop culture and other aspects of design.

Many items from the Normandie, hailed by the exhibition’s curator as the “greatest art deco works every created”, will go on display, including an interior panel from the smoking room, alongside a 26-foot model of the Queen Elizabeth from 1948 and furniture from the Queen Mary.

The Normandie in New York (Collection French Lines)
A swimming pool, reminiscent of the one on the deck of the SS United States, will also feature in the exhibition, alongside a silk georgette and glass beaded flapper dress designed by Jeanne Lanvin in 1925 and worn by Kentucky socialite Emilie Grigsby on her frequent Atlantic crossings on the most luxurious liners of her day.

The Lanvin dress (V&A)
Visitors will also be able to see the Christian Dior suit worn by Marlene Dietrich as she arrived in New York aboard the Queen Mary in 1950 and a Lucien Lelong couture gown worn for the maiden voyage of the Normandie in 1935.

Marlene Dietrich in her Dior outfit (V&A)
Tristram Hunt, director of the V&A, said: “We wanted to capture this fascinating topic from the design to the engineering and human stories and bring it to life as only the V&A can.

“It will be the first ever exhibition to explore the design and cultural impact of the ocean liners on an international scale and it will cover all aspects of ship design, from the engineering, architecture and interiors to the fashion and lifestyles aboard.

Luggage used by the Duke of Windsor to travel between France and the US (Miottel Museum)
“It will tell a compelling story of empire, trade, immigration, national rivalry, technology, fashion and social class.

“Some have asked, with this tale of ocean-going enterprise across the open sea, whether this is a Brexit exhibition?

“In fact what it reveals is the remarkable intimacy of European design and collaboration even in the days of Cunard and P&O. This is a story of European design as much as British ocean-going bombast and colonial pride.”

Ocean Liners: Speed &Style, which has been co-organised by the Peabody Essex Museum in Salem, Massachusetts, runs from February 3 to June 10 2018.