Rex Whistler’s Mural, Plas Newydd


Trompe-l’œil. Detail from one of the two side walls in Plas Newydd’s dining room. The impression of relief on this flat surface is astonishingly convincing.


21 June 2015

Llanfairpwllgwyngyll, Anglesey

SH 52085 69639; 53.20317°N, 4.21601°W


Reginald John “Rex” Whistler (1905-1944) was born in Kent and, after initially starting to study art at the Royal Academy, attended University College London’s Slade School of Art from age 17 to 21. Not long afterwards he completed his first major commission, a mural entitled The Expedition in Pursuit of Rare Meats (unveiled in 1927) for the restaurant of the Tate Gallery (now known as Tate Britain). Whistler was a talented artist who worked in a great variety of disciplines, including portraits and landscapes, murals, posters and book illustrations, porcelain designs, and stage and costume design. He was a popular guest at many country houses where he created a number of murals, which were in vogue in the inter-war years. During the Second World War he served as a Lieutenant in the Welsh Guards and was sent to Normandy after the D-Day landings. He was killed there in Caen on his first day of action.

In the 1930s the 6th Marquess of Anglesey had to sell off the Paget family home in Staffordshire and Plas Newydd, the family’s country retreat in Anglesey, became their home. The Marchioness, Lady Victoria Marjorie Harriet Manners, took charge of re-decorating the property and Whistler was commissioned in 1936 to create a mural for the dining room. Completed in the 1937, the piece, entitled Claudian Fantasy, is at 17 metres long the largest canvas painting in the UK. The work incorporates many tricks of perspective and continues onto two side walls giving a fascinating three-dimensional effect.

Further Reading

Rex Whistler;
Rex Whistler: A Talent Cut Short – review (The Guardian);
Plas Newydd




Mural detail. The coastal view in the mural was inspired by the mountains of Snowdonia.


Mural detail


Mural detail – Neptune’s crown and trident. On the depiction of the stone quayside below this are painted the wet footprints of the sea god, giving the impression that he has walked into the dining room itself. Observers walking along the length of the mural are given the sensation that the footprints are always pointing in their direction.


Mural detail


Mural detail


Mural detail


View from the right of the left-hand half of the mural. When viewed from the left-hand end, the mountains seen here in a compressed perspective appear to stretch out to take up half of the entire scene.

16 thoughts on “Rex Whistler’s Mural, Plas Newydd

  1. You’ve caught this so well. I am always fascinated by it every time I go. I have great respect for the man as I once had to paint a mural (In a motorcycle dealership in Ayr…) It took me three weeks and wasn’t as big or as detailed as Rex Whistler’s, but boy what a job 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Pingback: Plas Newydd | GeoTopoi

  3. An alternative interpretation of this work for the Marquis of Anglesey is that it is an allegory of the Holy Roman Empire. Sounds far fetched but at one end of the room you have a Roman Legion Battle Standard complete with ‘the Hand of Rome’ and the head of Caesar, the Roman Fasces (bundle of sticks bound tightly) and a Roman soldiers armour and weaponry. The buildings and locations in the fantastical mural are all from parts of the Holy Roman Empire – Windsor Castle is depicted as being located on an Italian Lake.

    St George’s Chapel, Windsor Castle is where the Order of the Garter holds its annual Garter Ceremony.

    Order of the Garter Motto (French Maxim)

    ‘Honi Soit Qui Mal Y Pense’ – ‘Shamed be [he] who evil of it thinks’.
    What does ‘it’ refer to and why the ‘Garter’ reference?

    William Paget was appointed Knight of the Order of the Garter in 1547

    Henry William Paget, 1st Marquess of Anglesey was appointed Knight of the Order of the Garter in 1818

    Most Noble Order of the Garter – established 1348

    Enigmatically, the motto is also associated with the following:
     It is incorporated in the coat of arms of the Basilica of Saint Paul Outside the
    Walls in Rome[1]
     It is on the coat of arms above the lower main gate of the castle of the German
    city of Tübingen.
     It appears on the coat of arms of the Elector of Saxony in Stolpen, Germany
    (dated 1673).
     It is on the coat of arms for Heidelberg Castle, Germany (dated 1683).
     It appears in the source code for Apollo 11 [2]
     It appears in the comments of the source code for the master ignition routine of
    the Apollo 13 lunar module [3]
     It appears on American Tax Stamps circa 1765 [4]
     Until 1997 it appeared prominently on Hong Kong banknotes
    Fourth Edition
     It appears in the staff used by the Usher of the Black Rod of the Parliament of
     It appears on the Royal Coat of Arms of the British East India Company[5]
     It appears on pre-revolution Cuban Cigar Bands
     It appears on the front cover of the British Passport

    For further info of the Order of the Garter see:

    Click to access new-world-order-of-the-knights-of-the-garter-v0_9.pdf


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