While reading Alan Jacobs’ newsletter, I came across the story of a woman in her 90s who’d kept a painting above her hotplate that turned out to be a Cimabue worth six million bucks. (Cimabue was born in Florence in 1240. Vasari tells a story that he found Giotto drawing sheep from his flock on a rock and asked if he’d like to be his apprentice. )
I admit it’s not as exciting, but I also recently discovered a masterpiece hanging in my house. My wife and I bought this poster at a Botticelli show in Florence in 2004. We call her “The Botticelli Woman,” and she guards our front door:
In the 15 years that she’s hung in our entryways, I’ve never actually bothered to look up what painting she’s from. Then I was flipping through a book of Botticelli paintings at the thrift store and saw Pallas and the Centaur:
She’s always had a calming effect on me, and yet, I always had the feeling she should be guarding the place. Well, turns out my intuition was correct: That poster is a helluva crop! “The halberd,” that crazy axe-looking thing she’s holding, “was a weapon carried by guards rather than on the battlefield.”
How many things do we keep around our house whose histories we know nothing about?