There's one room that's remained timeless and untouched all my life: the main gallery of the Huntington Library. It's a serene and (to my mind) perfectly skylit room with the familiar Gainsborough Blue Boy and Lawrence Pinkie and the energetic Constable and the viola-da-gamba-professor Karl Fredrich Abel (who performed concerts with Bach's son Johann Christian) with his mellow dog and Ms. Siddons as the Tragic Muse. Remember discovering that the portrait of a Spencer in the hall was a relative of Princess Di? The painting placement has been stable in the room for at least fifty years.
Now the gallery has been upgraded, and it sounds like some of the paintings have been shuffled too, with Blue Boy and Pinkie displacing the old spots on the wall occupied by Ms. Siddons and the Constable, according to the Pasadena Star-News.
But now the iconic pair are gazing at each other from further away. They've been re-hung on the end walls of the long Art Gallery, now covered in dark green damask to give new depth to the grand-manner portraiture lining it as before.
Thanks to a (rarely seen) moment of acquisition genius by a tasteful robber baron, these paintings are inextricably linked to each other in the public's mind. Shouldn't they face each other on the shortest axis possible rather than the longest one?
The change seems merely gratuitous.
The refurbished gallery will open next Wednesday. O tempora, o mores!