13 May 2009

the Moonstone Door, a mystery

The Loggia of Raphael: A Vatican Art Treasure, published by Abbeville Press

I've read the Moonstone-by Wilkie Collins, more times than I can remember. With books as with movies there will be something that I continually Go Back To- reading rereading remembering.

With the Moonstone- it's the painting of Miss Rachel's door and boudoir by Miss Rachel and Mr Franklin. For the moment- I won't mention the theft of an Indian diamond, "as large as a plover's egg, nor the mastery of the telling of this mystery by Collin's unforgettable characters. The door and its painting- what does it have to do with the mystery? You must read it- if you like a mystery-and you must- or will- after reading the Moonstone.

Betteredge-the house steward- on Decorative Painting:
"Mr Franklin(Rachel's cousin and love interest) and Miss Rachel... confined themselves to making a mess, and all they spoilt, to do them justice, was the panelling of a door. Mr. Franklin's universal genius, dabbling in everything, dabbled in what he called decorative painting... and set her to work decorating her own little sitting room- called for want of English to name it in, her 'boudoir.'... Miss Rachel covered the surface under his direction and with his help, with patterns and devices- griffins, birds, flowers, cupids, and such like- copied from designs made by a famous Italian painter, whose name escapes me; the one, I mean, who stocked the world with Virgin Maries, and had a sweetheart at the baker's."

the real story-

the famous Italian painter?

Raphael Sanzio (1483-1520) His painting embodied the High Renaissance ideals of beauty. "How generous and kind Heaven sometimes proves to be when it brings together in a single person the boundless riches of its treasures and all those graces and rare gifts that over a period of time are usually divided among many individuals can clearly be seen in the no less excellent than gracious Raphael Sanzio of Urbino."- Vasari (1568)

a self portrait (1506)

our painter (l.)-with a friend (1518)

the sweetheart at the baker's
"La Fornarina" by Raphael- Margherita Luti, the daughter of a baker named Francesco Luti from Siena. Raphael's standing relationship with the sweetheart at the baker's is well known, as was his engagement to the niece of Cardinal Bibbiena. So intrigued by the relationship with Luti, Ingres painted Raphael and La Fornarina Margherita together over 300 years later.

La Fornarina (1518-1519)

Fascinated by the La V's identity for centuries as well, recent year long study of the La F. and La V. has unearthed conclusive information that it is one in the same- the sweetheart at the baker's, Margherita. (read-the article-click) The research sites the tiny pearl dangling from the turban and veil in both as evidence they are the same woman- and "Margherita"is Latin for pearl. Raphael signed his name on the blue ribbon arm band La Fornarina wears. Fascinating... like a tattoo of sorts (both possessing- and swearing eternal love to her.) Along with that- a ring on her left hand covered up by Raphael's students upon his death and the (recently) uncovered background foliage of myrtle and quince- symbols of love, fecundity and fidelity. Raphael was a romantic.

La Veleta (1514-1516)
our painter's wife it would seem- and the baker's daughter

Raphael and La Fornarina by Ingres

the Virgin Maries
Our painter's Madonnas are perhaps some of the most famous in the world- this one the Madonna of the Pinks-is my favorite. One of Raphael's early Madonnas painted around 1507- beautiful- full of light- fair of skin. This small devotional painting was painted for contemplation and would have been held in hand.

the "and such like"
Raphael's famous grotesques lie in the Vatican. “Raphael’s Loggia is among the Roman monuments that have been the most appreciated, copied, and visited by artists, connoisseurs, and travelers... “It is the ornamental ensemble that has left the deepest impression on Western art.” (from The Loggia of Raphael A Vatican Art Treasure by Nicole Dacos)

images follow from the Loggia at the Vatican
& The Loggia of Raphael: A Vatican Art Treasure, published by Abbeville Press,

 from the Hermitage- where Raphael's Loggia at the Vatican is faithfully reproduced

Raphael's portrait at center

from the Loggia of Cardinal Bibbiena at the Vatican (by Raphael)



  1. dearest- what can I say? so well done. xo,M

  2. So beautiful and so complete. I've made the pilgrimage to the Fornarina's home in Rome. It has small proportions and so much charm!
    I haven't read Wilkie Collins in a while, but you make me want to do some re-reading, too!

  3. le- I love your blog as well- relatively newly discovered. amazing what is out there. I am fascinated by art in good literature, it always seems I am drawn to that type of reading. thanks so much for checking LA out- & I agree about MTL too.

  4. Having read the book this post is a pleasure to delve into and picking out a fine detail and expounding on it as you have done is brilliant.ET

  5. I'm working on leading a multi-week discussion of The Moonstone as part of a detective fiction seminar, and came across this reference that intrigued me. Thanks so much for shedding light on Betteredge's charming turn of phrase.



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