Thursday, September 09, 2004

Automaton, fairy tale and between two roses.

1. At Waddesdon Manor the collection includes a mechanical elephant as tall as a small child. It swings its trunk and rolls its eyes when wound up. The story is that when the Shah of Persia came to visit he sulked in his room because he was told he was not going to meet the Prince of Wales. But Baron Ferdinand de Rothschild winkled him out by promising to wind up the elephant after dinner.

2. A series of bright - almost garish scenes from Sleeping Beauty by a Russian artist. They were a gift from one of the Rothschilds to his wife. The characters are all friends of the couple, including the man himself as the prince and his sister-in-law as the princess.

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3. Another piece of Waddesdonia (above). Garrick between Comedy and Tragedy by Sir Joshua Reynolds. Garrick was an upwardly mobile theatre owner. He was the son of an impoverished soldier but when he died 50,000 people came to view his coffin. Poor man - Comedy looks a right little minx who will bring him nothing but trouble, while Tragedy looks as if she's tearing him off a strip for leaving his newspaper lying all over the kitchen table.