Peacock Room newly restored -- at the Freer Gallery of Art in Washington, DC

These are certainly not the blue and white porcelains that Whistler envisioned living in the delicate gold shelving of his Peacock Room.  And at first I must admit this wide-ranging assortment of pottery came as a shock.  Some of the muted colors disappeared against the peacock blue of the walls and the rough textures felt out of place on the delicate shelving.  And it was hard to take the room in as a whole.

© Freer Gallery of Art

When all the pieces in the shelves were blue and white, they merged into a single compositional unit that was no more than an accent in this three-dimensional fantasy. But in this new installation, every piece demands attention and it’s hard to know what to look at.  But look at it you do, and it grows on you.  Or at least, it grew on me.   It felt less ‘decorator showcase,’ more personal and definitely more Freer —  Charles Lang Freer being the man who bought the Peacock Room and moved it lock, stock and gilded barrel from London to his home in Detroit 1904.  He then proceeded to fill the shelves with pots from Asia, Egypt and Iran.

© Freer Gallery of Art

And, indeed, if you had hundreds of plates and bowls and vases you loved and then got a room with beautiful shelving, wouldn’t you do the same?

So what if the textures and colors aren’t always a perfect fit — that’s called life.

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