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The Peacock Room
go back one page The Peacock Room was once the dining room in the London home of Frederick R. Leyland In his patron's absence, Whistler was inspired to make bolder revisions. Yet Whistler entertained visitors and amused the press in the lavishly decorated room, never thinking to ask permission of the owner of the house. Perhaps in retaliation, Whistler took the liberty of coating Leyland's valuable leather with Prussian-blue paint and depicting a pair of peacocks aggressively confronting each other on the wall opposite The Princess. Despite the controversy surrounding its creation, Leyland kept his dining room as Whistler had left it and continued filling the shelves with porcelain until his death in 1892. After Freer's death in 1919, the Peacock Room was transported to Washington, D.C. and installed in the new Freer Gallery of Art. As a further step toward restoring harmony to the Peacock Room, the Freer Gallery has collected examples of Chinese blue-and-white porcelain similar to those for which the room was designed. Go to the next page

In his patron's absence, Whistler was inspired to make bolder revisions. He covered the ceiling with Dutch metal, or imitation gold leaf, over which he painted a lush pattern of peacock feathers. He then gilded Jeckyll's walnut shelving and embellished the wooden shutters with four magnificently plumed peacocks.

Whistler wrote to Leyland that the dining room was "really alive with beauty — brilliant and gorgeous while at the same time delicate and refined to the last degree," boasting that the changes he had made were past imagining. "I assure you," he said, "you can have no more idea of the ensemble in its perfection gathered from what you last saw on the walls than you could have of a complete opera judging from a third finger exercise!" He urged Leyland not to return to London yet, since he did not want the room to be seen before every detail was perfect.

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