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Early Artworks & Style At The King Edward Hotel

December 6, 2012

When The King Edward Hotel in Toronto opened its doors to the public in 1903, it was clear that the many artworks on public display added to the elegance and great taste of the hotel.  Many of the artifacts were not chosen as part of the grand opulence that was the Edwardian-style of the time, but rather as a sincere and important contribution to the existing art life and education of the growing city and guests.  With the opening of Toronto’s first luxury hotel, The King Edward became a world-class showcase of fineness and reputation – as it still is today.

The art installments in the hotel included colorful paintings, magnificent carvings, metal work and pottery from many nations and historical significance.  Some of the unique and precious curios were purchased from the famous Clemenceau collection of Paris.  

Other treasures included two elaborate torso wood columns that had been purchased from a church in Bruges, Belgium – standing tall at the inside entrance of the hotel.

torso column 1                                                                           torso column 2

One of the more important pieces was a carved ivory jewel box of Diane de Poitiers – a French noblewoman, during the renaissance in the 16th-century, and prominent courtier at the courts of kings Francis I and his son, Henry II of France.

Diane de Poitiers

jewel box

Also among the early treasures of The King Edward Hotel was an eight-inch ancient terra cotta statue of Venus – dating back to 300 B.C. – on display in the Palm Room (today known as the Pall Mall).


Included in the eclectic mix of art items was a life-sized wood-carved statue, heavily lacquered with gold, from the 15th-century of Prince Sakyamuni  (who later became Buddha) – prominently displayed atop a stand adorned with palms in the hotel’s lounge floor – overlooking the lobby.


Adding to the majesty of this life-sized figurine stood a large and rare Japanese bronze temple lantern in the hotel’s main lobby.  The brilliant lantern – also dates to the 15th-century – was from a Shintu Temple at Nara.

Other precious works included among the hotel art pieces were a 17th-century tapestry representing a large hunting scene, and another smaller tapestry of Mars and Minerva.

Mars and Minerva

Also scattered throughout the corridors of the hotel were beautiful handicraft objects: such as Italian Fayence wares from Urbino and Castelli similar to the piece shown below…

Castelli Urbino

… as well as ancient chests and cabinets decorated by Flemish and Belgian wood carvers, and exquisite metal work and pottery by artisans of Venice, Florence, and China.

Guests were also impressed by the inlaid clock case – carved out of solid mahogany logs – made in Paris in 1902, framing the fireplace in the hotel lobby.

Adorning the hotel walls were precious paintings.  Among them was a river scene by the famous English romantic landscape artist, John Constable (1766-1834)…


… a painting by French artist, Theodore Rousseau titled, The Old Mill 

… a piece by French artist Jean-Baptiste Regnault


… another by Charles-Francois DaubignyBords of the Oisie…


… and a piece by Adolphe-Joseph-Thomas Monticelli.

There was also a work by Caspar Netscher of the Duchess D’Angouleme – also known as Diane de Poitiers – portrayed as the Huntress Diana (similar to the painting below) whose jewelry box, you may recall (see above), the hotel had on display.


The King Edward Hotel showcased several pieces by artist Maxime Dastugue – a little-known, “modern” artist at the time when the hotel opened at the turn of the 20th-century.

Best friends - Maxime Dastugue

Among other more obscure painters presented by the hotel were C.V. de Windt, Harry Vander Weyden, A. Brion, Anthony Ludovici, Szementowsky, Charles Pepper, A. Boucher, and Canadian artist William Brymner.


In 1906, The King Edward Hotel issued a guests’ book to visitors. The booklet – part information/part company advertising for merchants – provided an overview of the hotel facilities for the use of guests, including a description of the art collections mentioned above, and other objects of historic value.

Guest book 1906 cover

guest book 1906


The booklet goes on to describe various other artwork reproductions that can be found in the guest rooms. In the top centre of the page below is a photo of The Lamp that lights the traveller in.  This is a stylish example of not only elegant and functional art design, but also the fact that The King Edward hotel was ahead of its time and other hotels in Toronto in 1907 by providing full lighting electricity for guests throughout the entire hotel.

other art

(Click on the image above to enlarge)

Among the artists listed are: Sir Joshua Reyonds (1723-1792); Thomas Gainsborough (1727-1788); George Romney (1734-1802); George Morland (1764-1804); John Hoppner (1759-1810); and J.R. Smith.

Although tastes in works of art may have changed over the past 100 years since The King Edward first opened its doors, today the hotel still presents some spectacular works of artistic talent and beauty.  Current artwork at the hotel will be presented in another upcoming blog – so more to come!

In the meantime, as the 1907 guests’ book concluded in it’s chapter on Art in The King Edward, “Altogether The King Edward Hotel is in a real sense a museum of the choicest in painting and of the fine arts”. 

KE outside

 KE inside

The King Edward Hotel has become “a museum” in its own right as Toronto’s first luxury hotel – but a museum with absolute grandeur along with regal comfort and excellent service – a place still fit for a king , queen or everyday guest to come and experience as a work of art!


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