Watch this Space

15/1/16. One of the most difficult problems of researching Kittie Calderon’s life after George’s death is deciding how much she travelled abroad. After Percy Lubbock married Lady Sybil Cuffe in 1926, the couple lived in the fabulous Villa Medici at Fiesole and invited Kittie to stay with them at least six times between 1928 and 1930; but she seems to have gone only once (in November 1930). Similarly, she twice planned to visit Constantinople and Gallipoli, but the evidence is that she did not.

There is a fine leather suitcase emblazoned ‘Mrs. George Calderon’, which has the remains of a single foreign luggage label on it:

Tour Label on Kittie's Suitcase

I cast an eye over this label twenty years ago and thought: ‘Hm, “Russie” down right, a minaret top left, must be from travelling to Constantinople by ship, which was also a route to Russia’. But last week, having concluded Kittie did not go to Gallipoli, I took a closer look at the label (with a magnifying glass). First, as the image above clearly shows, top left is not a minaret, but a dome topped with a cross. The only church it reminded me of from my own experience was the basilica of Le Sacré Coeur in Paris. Second, what could the letters RAND be a part of, if not a French place name? I assumed that the letter before the R was an E, then ran through the possibles. None was at all convincing. Then the penny dropped: it is much more likely to be a G before RAND — and grand must be the commonest word ending in -and in the French language. Googling about on ‘le grand‘, Paris and ‘Russie’, I eventually came up with the Grand Hôtel de Russie at the top of the Boulevard Montmartre in the late nineteenth/early twentieth centuries. The Sacré Coeur basilica would tally with that, of course.

As far as is known, Kittie went to Paris only once, with George on their honeymoon in 1900. Both were keenly interested in contemporary French painting, which might explain why they stayed in Montmartre, and they may well have known that the famous series of paintings of Boulevard Montmartre by Impressionist Camille Pissarro was made from his balcony in the Grand Hôtel de Russie. The ‘suitcase’ is actually more like an attaché case of the period, i.e. hand luggage. The prominent words ‘Mrs. George Calderon’ on the front might be there because Kittie was going to Paris and wanted to make it clear she was (newly) married… At least, that is my hypothesis: that this case is her honeymoon case.

Other hypotheses that would explain this label are invited! Note that I am unable to explain the black, column-like shape on the right, or the bit of shield at bottom left that appears to say UNIT[É?].

Stop Press!

16/1/16. Within hours of the above post going up, John Pym emailed me with an image he had found on the Web of a luggage label that fitted Kittie’s exactly and demonstrates that the hotel was in Rome, not Paris. The only difference was that the image did not feature the UNIT[…] shield bottom left. However, it was conclusive proof that the label could not date from George and Kittie’s honeymoon to Paris in 1900. I had actually found the Grand Hôtel de Russie in Rome when I was trying to identify Kittie’s label, but rejected it as the nearest church had no high pinnacles on it, whereas the basilica of the Sacré Coeur in Montmartre has… I hadn’t considered the Vatican!

Well, by the evening Calderonia‘s indefatigable Web-Meisterin Katy George had found and sent me an even better image:

Full Sticker of Tour Label on Kittie's Suitcase

This contains the logo U.N.I.T.I. and even an extra line, again in French. If I had offered a bottle of champagne, Katy would definitely have won it! My sincere and humble thanks to her, to John Pym, and others who emailed me about this yesterday. My thanks are very humble, because I never expected so many people to give their time so generously to solving this one and my own hypothesis was up a gum-tree…

I have been asked when, then, did Kittie visit Rome? Most likely in 1930, when she stayed with Percy and Sybil Lubbock at Fiesole, whence it would be easy to reach Rome by train, but possibly the year before: a scrap of label on the side of her case says LUG, most likely standing for LUGANO, which might refer to a possible visit to Lesbia Corbet (married name Mylius) on Lake Como in 1929. Whereas the Grand Hôtel de Russie in Montmartre seems to have gone long ago, the one in Rome appears to have survived to this day — minus the ‘Grand’.

Thanks again to everyone who responded so splendidly.

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