Lucy Scholes is a critic who lives in London. She writes for The Times Literary Supplement, The Observer, The Financial Times, The New York Times Book Review, and Literary Hub, among other publications.
Kettle’s Yard, four old slum cottages, tucked away behind St. Peter’s Church in Cambridge (named after the Kettle family, who had built a short-lived theatre on the site back in the 1700s), became the location of Ede’s experimental vision. He renovated them and unpacked his collection, around which he and his wife, Helen, set up home, thenceforth holding an “open house” every afternoon during the university term, when students were encouraged to drop by, admire the art, read the Edes’ books—and, if lucky enough to be invited, perhaps partake of a cup of tea and a slice of toast with marmalade. Part of the charm of Kettle’s Yard has always been the juxtaposition between old and new.
Dressed from head to toe in a vibrant red uniform with gleaming gold buttons, hands defiantly on hips, legs spread wide, the bellboy perfectly captures the tension, seen throughout the exhibition “Soutine’s Portraits: Cooks, Waiters & Bellboys,” between personal dignity and professional subservience. A Russian émigré and the son of a poor Jewish tailor, Soutine rarely gave his portraits titles (hence the generic ones provided here), let alone bothered to note the names of his sitters. And yet he is known for posing his anonymous subjects like the royalty of yore: the bellboy’s regal red livery is reminiscent of ceremonial dress; and a pastry cook, his fluffed-up white cap perched on his head like a bejeweled crown, sits resplendent in a kitchen chair like a monarch on his throne.