Unique Original artwork
Artist: Stephen Chambers RA
The Court of Redonda: Warden of the Turtles, 2016-17
Oil on panel, framed.
British painter and printmaker Stephen Chambers created a cast of 102 imaginary courtiers titled The Court of Redonda. The work was inspired by a literary legend that has developed around the tiny, uninhabited Caribbean island of Redonda. The legend took shape as a fantasy in the mind of Matthew Dowdy Sheill, a merchant trader who claimed the island in 1865 and gave himself the title of King. The title passed down to his son, who decided that it should be given to poets and novelists as a form of literary honour. The celebrated novelist Javier Marias was a recent sovereign of Redonda. His appointment of courtiers, including film director Pedro Almodovar and novelists AS Byatt and Ian McEwan, inspired Stephen Chambers to create his own imaginary court.
Chambers explains: 'It's a construct, it's an idea that I was intrigued with. I wrote to Javier Marias, and in that correspondence, I suggested that I would paint portraits of the court. The paintings are not portraits from life, and they're not depictions of real people, they are people that I have invented. I wanted to invent a wide range of motley ne'er-do-wells and in a way celebrate their ordinariness. There is that line that I kick around my head which goes "the ordinary is more extraordinary than the extraordinary."'
Stephen Chambers: The Court of Redonda was shown at Hastings Contemporary in 2021