Whistler’s Peacock Room


Random browsing this week turned up some nice high-res photos of Harmony in Blue and Gold, as James Abbott McNeill Whistler named the room he decorated for Frederick R. Leyland in 1878. Leyland had bought one of Whistler’s paintings, La Princesse du pays de la porcelaine (1864), and architect Thomas Jeckyll was concerned that the painting and furnishings would clash, hence the invitation for Whistler to help with the colour scheme.

I’ve always preferred this luscious, gold-leafed design to the worthy medievalism of contemporary William Morris. Even though Whistler completed the work prior to the 1890s, the combination of Orientalism and peacocks (the signature bird of the Decadence) seems very much tied to the fin de siècle not least because of Aubrey and Mabel Beardsley’s visit to the room in 1891. Beardsley was very impressed with the painting and with the golden birds, the style of which later formed the inspiration for his famous Peacock Skirt illustration in Salomé (1894).


There’s a good overview here of the history of the room, including details of the falling out between the combative artist and his client, and the story of the room’s removal to America and subsequent restoration.

Previously on { feuilleton }
Beardsley’s Salomé
Alla Nazimova’s Salomé