Tuesday, March 09, 2010

The Secret Lives of Paintings

Simonetta Vespucci painted by Sandro Botticelli. He was reported to be in love with her, and when she died at a young age (24?) he was devastated. Subsequently he used her image on Primavera (Venus on the half-shell)

In Freer Gallery of Art in Washington D.C.:

The Peacock Room was once the dining room in the London home of Frederick R. Leyland, a shipping magnate from Liverpool, England. Originally designed by the interior architect Thomas Jeckyll to display Leyland's extensive collection of Chinese blue-and-white porcelain, the room was radically redecorated in 1876 and 1877 by the American-born artist James McNeill Whistler (1834–1903), whose painting The Princess from the Land of Porcelain hung over the mantel. Although he was at first merely asked for advice about what color to paint the shutters and doors, Whistler took over and eventually transformed the entire room into a "harmony in blue and gold," adorning its shutters with gorgeous golden peacocks and painting every inch of the ceiling and leather-covered walls with a pattern of peacock feathers. Leyland was shocked by the unauthorized redecoration and refused to pay the full amount that Whistler demanded for his efforts. In response to the contentious lawsuit that ensued, Whistler painted two peacocks squabbling over a bag of coins at the far end of the room--and he never saw his masterpiece again.


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