Art, J. Paul Getty Museum, Paintings

The Princess Is Back

In March, one of the most elegant women at the Museum was forcibly escorted out of the galleries. I was there and saw the whole thing.

Princess Leonilla, who’d been on constant view since the Getty Center opened in 1997, was wheeled away (very gently—here is evidence) to make room for a new arrival, J.M.W. Turner’s Modern Rome-Campo Vaccino.

Visitors were quick to notice the princess’s departure and demand to know when she’d be back. So, good news: she’s taken up residence just one room over from her former home, in Gallery W201.

Portrait of Leonilla, Princess of Sayn-Wittgenstein-Sayn by Franz Xaver Winterhalter in Gallery W201 at the Getty Center

Checking out her new digs: Portrait of Leonilla, Princess of Sayn-Wittgenstein-Sayn, Franz Xaver Winterhalter, 1843. Oil on canvas, 56 x 83 1/2 in. The J. Paul Getty Museum, 86.PA.534

It’s true that the princess has to put up with a smaller wall than she presided over before. But she was a woman renowned for her intellect as well as her beauty, and I like to think she’s having a blast getting to know her new neighbors, which include a Roman emperor, an exotic horseman, a brooding Romantic, and a racy trio of lovers.

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      ROSE

      This milky pink boomed into popularity because of a marketing ploy, a mistress, and its ambiguous origins.

      In an effort to compete with the renowned Meissen porcelain factory, the French Sèvres manufactory recruited the glamorous Madame de Pompadour (mistress to King Louis XV). Like a smart sponsorship deal, Sèvres gave her all the porcelain she requested. 

      Introduced in 1757, this rich pink exploded on the scene thanks to favoritism by Madame Pompadour herself. 

      The glaze itself had a weird history. To the Europeans it looked Chinese, and to the Chinese it was European. It was made based on a secret 17th-century glassmaker’s technique, involving mixing glass with flecks of gold.

      For more on colors and their often surprising histories, check out The Brilliant History of Color in Art.

      12/19/14

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