A Discovery Amidst the Copyedits

I’m working on the copyedits of the manuscript now and am almost done. This is the time for scrutinizing every comma and hyphen. Here and there I add a phrase for clarity or delete a sentence that seems repetitive. But mostly it’s making sure each name is spelled correctly. Today, however, I rediscovered for a moment the joy of research, when you are turning over every stone–and the thrill of discovery, when you find a hidden gem.

In a passage about Woolson setting up her apartment in the Casa Semitecolo (her last residence), I refer to her favorite Meacci painting. The copyediter added a note, asking if I could identity the artist and the painter. I’m sure I had looked earlier and found nothing. This time, however, a search yielded a webpage, which has not only an image of the painting, “The Garden of the Hesperides” by Ricciardo Meacci, but also an image of the back, on which has been pasted a letter describing how James received the painting from Woolson’s sister, Clare Benedict, after Woolson’s death in Venice (and how she later asked for it back). Here is the lovely painting:

As I looked over the notes on the back, which are difficult to read, I instantly recognized Woolson’s handwriting. Zooming in, I found a fragment of a letter about the painting:

I’ve got such a lovely little picture, “The Garden of the Hesperides.” John Hay has a duplicate. You can see his in Cleveland. I’ve just had mine framed. In “gilded work” by Ruskin’s frames.

Today the painting hangs in Lamb House, Rye, the home James lived in for the last years of his life. I’ve never been there but long to go someday.

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