Every month, I profile an artist who inspires my own art,
in several segments.
This is the story of how I discovered Dorothy Carleton Smyth. My Special Someone and I were watching an episode of Antiques Roadshow on Netflix (Hour 2 of Eugene, Oregon, which aired January 2012) and a young woman had three painted wood panels that her grandmother had bought at a flea market. They were gorgeous illustrations of three Shakespeare scenes with hand-lettered excerpts. Besides doing a stellar job of painting, Smyth also added little beads as decorations.
The appraiser, Beth Szescila, priced each panel at $5,000. The guest had six more panels at home (which I would dearly love to see), making her collection worth a pretty penny. But I wouldn’t sell those panels if I were her – I’d will them to a museum or the Glasgow School of Art, the school Smyth had been appointed to lead. They were all dated 1905 or 1906 by Smyth herself.
(I put these images together myself, so if you use them, please credit me – but more importantly, credit the Antiques Roadshow!)
The first panel is from Romeo and Juliet, depicting Romeo reaching up to Juliet as she leans out of her window. Notice the blue beads scattered across Romeo and the round piece (maybe mother of pearl) that forms a big decoration on Juliet’s headpiece. The quote, spoken by Juliet in Act 3, Scene 5, reads: “Wilt thou begone? It is not yet near day / It was the nightingale and not the lark that pierced the fearful hollow of thine ear”.
The second panel shows a scene from Much Ado About Nothing (Act 4, Scene 1) in which some unsavory information has come to light about Hero, the lady who has collapsed. Her fiancee, Claudio, promises to be forever suspicious of anything nice so he won’t get hurt again in matters of love: “For thee I’ll lock up all the gates of love / And on my eyelids shall conjecture hang / To turn all beauty into thoughts of harm.” I don’t notice any beads on this panel, but the two men’s belt buckles appear to be reflective.
The third panel, from The Merry Wives of Windsor, is a little different because the quote comes from a scene later than the action. It illustrates Falstaff (a scoundrel character that appears in three Shakespeare plays) chucked into a river with laundry. The excerpt, from Act 3, Scene 5, is Falstaff reflecting on his fall: “You may know by my size that I have a kind of alacrity in sinking.” I like the two reflective circles in the river, perhaps representing bubbles.
Lastly, here’s a close-up of the decorations on the panels. It’s mostly paint but I wonder if parts are carved – the little squares look like they might be.
Join me next week for Dorothy Carleton Smyth’s historical subjects, which include the very fancy Cupid’s Garden.