Artworks
Harmony in Blue and Gold: The Peacock Room
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ldare's picture

Sr. Editor

Don't give Whistler free range in your Peacock Room.

Begrudgingly commissioned by Frederick R. Leyland, a wealthy shipping magnate.

This is Whistler's first attempt at interior decorating. Leyland only permitted Whistler to do a few touch-ups to the original room, done by Thomas Jeckyll, to integrate his recent acquisition, Whistler's Rose and Silver: The Princess from the Land of Porcelain. Whistler apparently heard "do whatever the hell you want."

During the renovations, Whistler convinced Leyland to stay away until every detail was perfect and Leyland obliged. Whistler took full advantage hosting parties for his friends and the press in the fabulously decorated house without Leyland's knowledge.

Whistler even painted over leather wall coverings from the 16th-century that had once belonged to Catherine of Aragon, first wife of Henry VIII.

Leyland was, of course, furious with Whistler who had ALSO gone far over budget and initially refused to pay him. They eventually settled for £1,000 ($162,090.55 today), half the original price.

Being hugely passive-aggressive, Whistler painted this mural of two peacocks fighting. He gave the more aggressive one white breast feathers that look like the white ruffle shirts Leyland wore and painted coins at the peacock's feet. Poor Thomas Jeckyll was so shocked by the sight of the new room that he was later found on the floor of his studio covered in gold leaf. He never recovered and spent his last years in a mental institution.

Check out this amazing panoramic shot of the entire room.