Monday, August 28, 2006

An allusion to "False Dawn"

From the New York Daily News: Now you see 'em at museums

'Moonlight' by Ralph Blakelock is one of many American paintings now on view that until recently were consigned to storage.

In an Edith Wharton novella set in the mid-19th century, the scion of an aristocratic New York family - a young man who has studied art history - travels to Europe to buy "pictures" (what we today would call paintings).

Unfortunately, the young man has acquired taste and a serious eye.

Instead of buying the opulent, bright - and huge - canvases his relatives imagined adorning the walls of their mansion, he acquires small, exquisite early Renaissance works. The family is mortified. For the rest of his life he is an outcast. Not until after his death, decades later, does the value, both esthetic and financial, of his collection become apparent.

The story was one of many in which Wharton deplored the materialism and philistinism of the wealthy, dull people among whom she had grown up.

Like wealthy families, museums sometimes acquire things whose value becomes clear only with time.


Julie Chambers said...

Question: is it really possible that in the time this story takes place people were unaware of the value of the early Renaissance painters such as Giotto?

Edith said...

Yes--pictures from that era were not highly valued, and, in fact, Wharton based the story on a collector of whom she had heard. Emily Orlando's Edith Wharton and the Visual Arts tells the stor

Edith said...