Sunday, April 17, 2016

Mystery at the Museum

Ink on Bristol
Went to the Art Institute of Chicago the other day and spent the entire day there. It was amazing, aside from me losing my member card and the obnoxious tour guide in the new modern wing. Seriously, he was trash talking the impressionist paintings to a bunch of people in business attire and you could almost hear their eyes rolling at him. Just outside of this area I spotted a woman that was quite funny to me. I was on the second floor and she was on the first so I stopped and quickly snapped a photo of her for reference to use later. I'm considering painting her and titling it, Everything Except the Kitchen Sink, except she could very well have that in her huge bag. I've always found it odd how some people can just make themselves at home in public. 

The big mystery that I've been trying to solve all weekend involves this painting. John Singer Sargent's The Fountain, Villa Torlonia, Frascati, Italy. John Preston said this is his favourite Sargent painting and so he spent quite a bit of time in front of it. That's why you go to museums, you can really see the brushstrokes and the details that you miss in a photograph. The mystery is, what was Jane Emmet de Glehn painting, the woman in the painting, as John Singer Sargent painted her? The Art Institute has a very nice description of the painting and an excerpt from a letter Jane wrote to her sister explaining the painting. You can read it here. The letter confirms my thoughts on the man in the painting, "Wilfrid is in short sleeves, very idle and good for nothing".  Seeing it in a photo it looks like he's just keeping his wife company but up close you can see he has this look on his face like he'd rather be anywhere but there and just bored with everything going on around him. Back to what she was painting while being painted. I searched her paintings and came up with one that looked like it could be a possibility but wasn't painted in the same location. Doing an image search of Villa Torlonia gave an idea of what the scenery was like around this fountain but still nothing matches up with her paintings. There's a website for Wilfrid Emmet de Glehn that has some information about Jane and even more excerpts from letters she wrote. You can read here what she wrote about Villa Torlonia. To me this is more mysterious than Mona Lisa's smile.


  1. You nailed her. She reminded me of a woman I saw in Dubuque. Her neighbors explained she decided to dress and decorate her home in 40's style as a lifestyle statement of sorts. You have to love their visual-ness.

    1. Totally regretting that I didn't make up a story about a time traveler.
      For some reason I picture the 40s as being drab with shades of pale yellows and browns. Probably an after effect of Prohibition, they wanted everything to look like liquor. I'd be more impressed if someone committed to an 1880s style.