DUFF GORDON SHERRY PLATE
This colorful Beach-Vienna Art Plate was manufactured in about 1906-1907. It is marked below the portrait as copyrighted by Alex D. Shaw & Co. who was a liquor importer (1906-1917). Shaw was acquired by National Distillers in 1917. On the back, the very last line on the text at the bottom states “Alex D Shaw & Co – New York, Agent for the United States.” At the lower left front border it is marked H.D. Beach Co.
Beyond the whimsical bar scene in the center, the border contains the coat of arms and flags of Spain at the top plus three small portraits; a bull at the bottom, a woman on the left marked “Otero” and a portrait of a bullfighter on the right marked “Mazzantini”, both of whom were famous national personalities in Spain at the time and both of whom were at the height of their careers at the time this plate was made.
La Belle Otero:
The woman is La Belle “Bella” Otero (1868-1965). Born Agustina Otero Iglesias, her family was impoverished and at the age of fourteen she left home with her boyfriend and dancing partner and began working as a singer / dancer in Lisbon. In 1888 she found a sponsor in Barcelona who moved with her to Marseille, France in order to promote her dancing career. She soon left him and created the character of “La Belle Otero”, fancying herself an Andalusian gypsy. She wound up as the star of the famous Les Folies Bèrgere productions in Paris.
Within a few years, Otero grew to be the most sought after woman in all of Europe. She was serving as a courtesan to wealthy and powerful men of the day. She associated herself with the likes of Prince Albert I of Monaco, King Edward VII of the United Kingdom, Kings of Serbia, Kings of Spain as well as Russian Grand Dukes Peter and Nicholas, the Duke of Westminster and writer Gabriele D’Annunzio. Her love affairs made her infamous and were the envy of many other notable female personalities of the day.
Otero retired after World War I and purchased a mansion and property in France. She had accumulated a massive fortune over the years but she gambled much of it away over the remainder of her lifetime. She lived out her life in a more and more pronounced state of poverty until she died of a heart attack in 1965 in her one-room hotel-apartment in Nice, France.
The bullfighter is Luis Mazzantini (1856-1926) who was an infamous Spanish bullfighter who rose through the bullfighting ranks to become a national hero. He was recognized world wide and made appearances in Cuba and Mexico. After his retirement he became a politician, writer, and patron of the arts up to the time of his death.
Sir Cosmo Edmund Duff Gordon:
Sir Cosmo Edmund Duff Gordon (1862-1931) was a prominent Scottish landowner and sportsman and the fifth baronet of Halkin, his title stemming from a royal license conferred on his great uncle in 1813 in recognition of his aid to the British Crown during the Peninsular War (1808-1814). In 1772 William Duff Gordon had founded the Duff Gordon sherry bodega in Spain, which still produces high quality wines. Cosmo was the heir to family fortunes including the Spanish winery.
In 1900, Duff Gordon married the famous London fashion designer “Madame Lucile”. This was slightly risqué, as Lucy, Lady Duff-Gordon was a divorcee and had a sister, Elinor Glyn, noted for writing erotica.
Cosmo Duff Gordon is best known for surviving the sinking of the RMS Titanic in 1912, along with his wife and her secretary, Laura Francatelli. There were rumors that the Duff Gordons’ had bribed the crew in their lifeboat not to rescue people in the water thus threatening their reputations, but the British Board of Trade’s Inquiry into the disaster cleared them of any wrongdoing and a letter written by the secretary further clears their name. Duff Gordon was one of many men in First Class who were allowed into lifeboats despite Captain Smith’s “women and children first” rule. Cosmo Duff Gordon was portrayed by Martin Jarvis in the 1997 film Titanic. The actor’s wife, Rosalind Ayres, played Lady Duff Gordon.