An original drawing of Sir Winston S. Churchill by the head chef of Blenheim Palace, signed by Churchill during his 50th engagement anniversary celebration at Blenheim Palace in June 1958
Blenheim Palace: 1958. "Scarce" and even "rare" often append to items in our inventory, but seldom are we able to accurately apply the words "singular" and "unique". This item provides such an occasion. This is an original drawing of Sir Winston S. Churchill, made in 1958 by the head chef of Blenheim Palace for the occasion of the 50th anniversary of Churchill’s engagement - and subsequently signed by Churchill.
This drawing is executed in graphite on a 24 x 18 inch (61 x 45.7 cm) sheet of wove paper. The bottom right the drawing is signed by the artist "D. Dunas | Blenheim. 26.5.1958" in graphite and signed by the subject "Winston S. Churchill" in ink. Condition is good plus with significant but even overall toning. We have saved the original oak frame in which Dunas originally displayed his drawing, but updated the material within the frame to accord with archival conservation standards. The drawing is now matted with acid free rag board with a conservation backing and UV filtering acrylic glazing. The framed dimensions are 29 x 23.5 inches (73.1 x 59.7 cm).
As Head Chef at Blenheim Palace, Dunas of course knew in advance of the impending celebration for Winston and Clementine Churchill. Indeed, it was his responsibility to prepare meals for the weekend's celebrations. The date of "28.5.1958", indicates that Dunas completed the drawing in advance of the celebration, certainly with the intention of securing Churchill's signature, which he did.
Winston had proposed to Clementine in the pavilion in the park at Blenheim in 1908. On the afternoon of 27 June 1958, the Churchills began a celebratory weekend at Blenheim for the 50th anniversary of their engagement. Among the guests was the historian A. L. Rowse, who noted in his journal: "Winston and Clemmie appeared, Clemmie all billowing gown and broadened out with age. I was shocked to see how much he had aged... Unsteady on his feet he took a low seat, beaming happily, contentedly around, saying nothing, kissing the children goodnight... We went to dinner, he on the Duchess's right, I next to him... he is still capable of a good phrase, an echo of his former power. Some asked whether he would be attending church tomorrow. 'At my age,' he replied, 'I think my devotions may be attended in private.' ...He was still compos mentis; he had won £21 off the Duchess at bezique that evening, and during the weekend had cleaned her out of £50 altogether." After the weekend, Clementine returned to London while Winston lingered at Blenheim into early July. (Gilbert, Vol. VIII, pp.1269-70) Likely it was during this time that Dunas secured Winston's signature.
French-born Daniel Emile Dunas (1930 - 2020) decided early to be a professional cook and at 15 commenced an apprenticeship to learn fine cuisine and pastry. His talent for drawing was primarily expressed in drawings that he made to accompany his collection of recipes. Dunas moved to England as pastry chef for the Duke of Marlborough in 1951, a post he left after two years to become chef to the Governor General of Canada. In Ottawa Dunas married, returning to Blenheim when he was invited by the Duchess of Marlborough to become Head Chef. He remained at Blenheim with his wife and their two children, Michel and Suzanne, for eight years, during which time his talents acquired renown, setting him on the path “to become one of the finest Chefs in Europe and America.” (Obituary, Ottawa Citizen, 10 June 2020). We acquired this drawing from the artist’s daughter, Suzanne, who recalled her childhood at Blenheim.
It was during this period at Blenheim that Dunas presided over 1958 preparations for the celebratory weekend in honor of Winston and Clementine. Dunas went on to serve Canadian Governor General Jules Leger, oversee the kitchen at New York City’s famous Tavern on the Green, own the prestigious Chez Bardet in Montreal, serve as Maitre Chef at Toronto’s Hazelton Hotel, and as Executive Chef at New York’s Ritz Carlton and The Dorset. Item #005083