Scrutinium Tamar Lev-On

BARGEHOUSE GALLERY, LONDON | NOVEMBER 2007 | TAMAR LEV-ON
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SCRUTINIUM is a fictitious archive, telling the story of an 1897 murder. The dead body of shipping tycoon Lord Henry Kent was found stabbed in the Bargehouse Gallery location, and I took upon myself to investigate the related figures and happenings.

SCRUTINIUM begins with a found newspaper and open-ends with a variety of contradicting answers, questioning reality and fiction, present and past, and the trust between me, the historian-artist and you, the viewer.

This website accompanied the 2007 show, telling its story.

scru·ti·ny   

  1. A close, careful examination or study.
  2. Close observation; surveillance

from Latin scrūtinium, the action of searching, of scrutinizing

When I learned that we were to exhibit at the Bargehouse, I started investigating it in more detail in order to tie my work to something momentous that might have happened here. Early on in my research I came across a newspaper. It was called Mariner Weekly, the newspaper of "all Maritime Society Gentlemen Members".

The issue was dated November 19th 1897, and included an intriguing story about a shipping tycoon murder. But what really caught my eye before I even began reading the text, was a small photograph of a young lady, Allison Kent, that appeared under her father's portrait. Allison's face bore a remarkable resemblance to the faces of the women in my family and I wanted to know who she was.

The society stopped publishing the paper a year later in 1898, leaving me curious as to the outcome of the murder investigation and the identity of the killer. I, then decided to conduct my own scrūtinium, located some relevant characters and traced their footsteps.

The Original MARINER WEEKLY

LONDON, FRIDAY, NOVEMBER 19th 1897

For All Maritime Society Gentlemen Members

Shipping tycoon found murdered

By Geoffrey Levison

Yesterday, Thursday, at dusk, the body of shipping tycoon, Lord Henry Johann Kent, was found at the offices of his shipping company, Imperial Line & Co., on the south-bank of the river Thames at Blackfriars.

The investigating officer, first joint commissioner Charles Rowan of Scotland Yard, reported that the victim, aged sixty eight, was found with a single and notably precise stab wound to the heart. A blood stain was found on the south goods-entrance wall. An eye witness, Josiah Hay, told this newspaper that Lord Kent “almost had a smile on his face and in a most peculiar way seemed at peace with himself”. The murder weapon was not present at the scene of the crime. Police are examining a possible link to an unsolved murder which took place on the Woolwich Ferry three weeks ago (inset). Police have released no further details or illustrations.

Lord Kent led a distinguished career as a merchant. He assumed control of Imperial Line & Co. through his wife, Lady Daphne Menugel, who co-owned the company with her only brother Clive Menugel. Sir Clive died in a hunting accident in 1867 and, in his will, left the company management in the hands of his sister and her husband. Lord Kent was most unfortunately widowed when Lady Daphne died giving birth to their only daughter Allison. In Sir Clive’s will, only at the passing of Lord Henry would Allison and Sir Benjamin inherit Imperial Line & Co. Neither Sir Benjamin nor Allison Kent, who resides in Paris, has been traced and informed of Sir Henry’s death thus far.
Imperial Line & Co. was founded in 1843 by Mr. Isaac Menugel, the father of Lady Daphne and Sir Clive. Mr. Menugel served for many years in Her Majesty’s navy and retired in 1842. Perceiving a commercial opportunity following the ratification of the Treaty of Nanking between China and Great Britain at the end of the opium war which eased trading restrictions, he established his maritime trading company. Trading in Chinese fabrics and spices, Imperial Line & Co. quickly flourished, also thanks to its successful involvement in the gold seeking years, and today consists of twenty eight Clippers - 25 steam operated and 3 are remains of the classic sort - some of which can function also as warships. In a most cruel twist of fate, the pride and joy of Lord Henry’s fleet, a fully operational steam merchant ship named “Allison” after his daughter, is to be launched tomorrow. (See story on this page).

Captain Robert Long, a member of Imperial Line & Co. and a close friend to Lord Kent, told this paper that Lord Kent was an aficionado of foreign cultures and an obsessive collector of rare fabrics and Chinese artifacts. Indeed, some five years ago he established, together with his close friend Doctor Albert M. Bartholomew, an Anthropology and Culture study society which examined, collected and exhibited the testimonies and artifacts gathered by his crews as they plied the China route. Three years ago the pair also published the well-received collection of stories: “Tales from the Silk Road: ancient beliefs from China”.

In an immediate tribute to Lord Kent, the inaugural “Thames Barge Driving Race”, established by the House of Lords and supported by the Lower House in an effort to celebrate the riverine trades and encourage the recruitment of young men, is expected to be renamed “The Lord Kent” in memory of the late shipping magnate. The race consists of ten teams of six members each, who navigate and row thirty-ton barges over a grueling seven-mile, upriver course from Greenwich to Westminster Bridge. It is expected that crewmen will raise a salute to Lord Kent as they pass Imperial Line & Co.’s imposing offices at China Wharf in Blackfriars.

INSET

Following the sensational murder of Lord Kent yesterday, Scotland Yard has re-opened the file on the Woolwich Ferry case. A spokesman told our reporter that there are marked similarities between the positioning of the bodies in both instances and that they have significant new leads which they are pursuing vigorously. To remind our readers, three weeks ago an unidentified body was discovered in a cabin of the Woolwich Ferry positioned on its back, stabbed through the heart... pp.14

A Bittersweet launch

By Norman Hais

Tomorrow, Saturday, at noon, Imperial Line & Co.’s steamship “Allison” will be launched at Greenwich. This ship is a significant addition to the company, which thus far has only classic and steam clippers in its fleet. “Allison” has a composite wrought-iron frame structure covered by wooden planking. It consists of a cargo capacity of 918 tons, and a hull length 209 feet. The uniquely shallow-hulled “Allison” will be able to navigate the Suez Canal, thus shortening the journey time to China from more than three months to a mere sixty five days. The vessel has been specially constructed for the transportation of fabric and spices, these being the main goods traded by the company.

However, the fanfare will be marked by sorrow, too. Lord Kent, who died yesterday, will not witness the launch of his beloved ship which he named after his deeply cherished only child whom he did not meet since her departure to Paris, ten years ago. The appointed captain of the “Allison”, Frederic ‘Boot’ Blaufeder, told this newspaper: “Fate is a fickle force. Most naturally, I am thrilled by the prospect of guiding this magnificent ship out of London and into the world’s seas.
But, myself and the crew will all harbour deep sadness at the untimely and cruel passing away of our master. But, for sure, the “Allison” will always carry the spirit of Lord Henry as we race her across the oceans to his beloved China”.

 

Rivals to compete for Maritime Society’s presidency

By James McFere

Nine days from now, elections will be held for the presidency of England’s Maritime Society. Following fraught primary election rounds, the two final candidates are Doctor Albert Montgomery Bartholomew and the former Dutch Doctor Markus Visser. Readers may be reminded that the two men both served as doctors in Her Majesty’s navy. In 1857, they were urgently called to a ship returning from British Columbia carrying the son of the Duke of Rochester. According to unofficial accounts, Doctor Bartholomew irrigated the patient with a mysterious brown potion from the East Indies, while Dr. Visser chose to treat him with Penicillium, an experimental medicine developed in St. Mary’s Hospital. It appeared that, mysteriously, the two methods of treatments counteracted each other and the Duke’s son sadly suffered an agonizing and lingering death. To this day, each doctor blames the other for the decease of their patient. (See page 3).


The three characters you are about to follow were intimately involved with Lord Henry Johann Kent around the year 1897. Their stories are closely intertwined as is the time they spent in this building, which functioned as the headquarters of Lord Kent’s shipping company, Imperial Line & Co.

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scrūtinium| Bargehouse Gallery, London | November 2007 |back to tamarlevon.com