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|THE FORWARD LOBBIES & THE BELSKY MURAL
|Aft of the forward lounges on A and B Decks were lobbies and the main staircase, dominated at its forward end by a huge three-deck high mural stretching up from A Deck, through B Deck and up to the boat deck above. This depicted as its centrepiece an image of the Saxon King Hengist, on horseback and looking particularly menacing. The mural was the creation of famous Czech-born sculptor Franta Belsky, and was made up of a series of square fibreglass panels. Originally coloured mainly mid-blue with Hengist and other features picked out in gold, after the ship moved to Greece the entire mural was retained and carefully repainted, the only physical alteration being the plastering-over of the legend 'HENGIST' on the panel adjacent to the horseman.
Belsky's work was to appear on a variety of Sealink ships of the period, although the three similar murals on Hengist, Horsa and Senlac were by far the largest individual creations. Other ships to feature his work were St Edmund and St Columba.
Franta Belsky was perhaps most famous for sculpting four generations of the British royal family, including a bronze bust of the Queen dating from 1981, which is located in the National Portrait Library in London. Other notable creations include the Queen Mother and the London monument of the Queen's assassinated cousin, Lord Mountbatten. Belsky also sculpted the bust of Sir Winston Churchill outside the British Embassy in Prague, and the memorial to Czech and Slovak RAF pilots killed in the Battle of Britain and during World War Two. Two busts of former U.S. President Harry S. Truman, created in the early 1970s, are in the Presidential Library, Independence, Missouri and at the Truman Dam on the Osage River. Truman apparently asked for Belsky specifically having seen one of his earlier Churchill sculptures.
Belsky was later president of the British Association of Portrait Sculptors and his successor, Anthony Stones, described him as one of the most important sculptors in Britain's post-war history. He was renowned for taking extreme pains over his sculptures and it was his habit to seal inside each of his castings a Guinness bottle, a copy of that day's newspaper, a six-penny coin, and a note declaring that Franta Belsky was the artist responsible! It is unknown whether this practice was maintained on the Sealink commissions.
Belsky died in the UK in 2000; the murals on each of Hengist, Horsa and Senlac live on, mostly intact. Whether the ships' current Greek owners appreciate the value of the works of art sailing on their vessels is perhaps open to question.
|Top: Seen from the Boat Deck forward lobby is the top half of the Hengist mural as it is today - repainted but principally intact. The original spotlights still highlight this vast artwork. The main feature panel is a depiction of Hengist himself.|
|Below: The same scene from the ship's early years, with the 'HENGIST' legend still intact.|
|Below: A close-up of the lower starboard section of the mural, between A and B Decks, showing some of the other feature panels and demonstrating the original colours, as worn throughout the ship's UK service. As built, the ship featured wood effect panelling on the undersides of the staircases. (Picture courtesy Bruce Peter)|
|Above: Another picture of the mural as it was during the Hengist days - this is taken from the A deck forward lobby. Of note are the transparent balustrade panels, which were used throughout the staircases on the three sisters, and remain today.|
|Below: A similar view from 2003; this is the lobby on A deck, with the mural stretching down to B Deck below and the Boat deck above. The simple but elegant design of the staircases is also clear.|
|Below: Looking across to port on the mid-level between A and B Decks aboard Panagia Ekatontapiliani in 2003.|
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