It is nearly half a century since it first appeared, but The Rolling Stones’ album Beggars Banquet and its shambolically bucolic photoshoot continue to intrigue, not least because it was their last recording before the death of the group’s founder Brian Jones. Shot on location at the gothic studio of Sarum Chase in Hampstead and the derelict ruins of Swarkestone in Derbyshire, the ethereal and elaborately staged photos (from £2,880) by Michael Joseph (on show and sale at Proud Gallery in Chelsea, July 6-30) bear the influence of Dutch Renaissance artists Hieronymus Bosch and Pieter Bruegel the Elder, and are some of the most outstanding ever taken of the band.
Extraordinarily evocative of an era when the Stones were at the height of their popularity and notoriety, these signed archival limited edition prints show the group surrounded by cattle, playing cricket in overgrown grass and, most famously, gathered in hedonistic abandon around a giant banqueting table. One image (£7,080 for 76cm x 102cm; available in various sizes) has Jones dressed as a sort of court jester, clutching a bottle as the rest of the band gaze off into the distance, all captured in sharp contrast to the vividly green grass; another sees the group sprawled in front of an old manor house, encased in early-morning mist.
The gothic scene of the banquet itself resembles a medieval painting, with a table piled high with food while Keith Richards, in the foreground, strums his guitar, seemingly oblivious to a goat sniffing his foot. Jones is even more garishly dressed and has grapes in one hand, a cup in another. The same set is the basis of a striking black and white image showing the banquet descending into debauchery. Mick Jagger, dressed in the rags of a down-and-out, pouts on his own in one shot (£2,880 for 41cm x 51cm; available in various sizes); in another he overlooks a supine Richards, lying with a pug on his stomach and an apple, impaled on a knife, held to his lips.
“I really admire Joseph’s distinctive and unconventional style, as well as the level of detail in these iconic images of the Stones,” says Proud’s senior gallery manager Amy Thornett. “These prints are becoming increasingly rare and highly valuable collectors’ items.”