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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      #ThyCaptionBe: Warnings to the Rich & Powerful

      You captioned this detail. And we’re revealing the full story now.

      It would be awesome if this was Medieval hangman, or a really awkward frat party, but it’s actually the result of a one-letter swap gone wrong in a book about the fates of the rich. 

      Here’s the full story:

      You sometimes regret what pops out unexpectedly when you open your mouth, but in this case, even the fish must have been quite surprised when a wooly lamb burst forth. 

      The stories in this text by Giovanni Boccaccio warn of the terrible fate that often awaits the rich and powerful. He uses here the example of King Polycrates, who tossed a ring into a river, hoping for good luck, and found it later in the mouth of a fish. 

      Someone got confused, though, and instead of a ring (in French, annel), what came out instead was a lamb (agnel). Apparently, neither the ring nor the lamb worked because the king was later hanged (background).

      #ThyCaptionBe is a celebration of modern interpretations of medieval aesthetics. You guess what the heck is going on, then we myth-bust.

      08/31/15

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