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Churchill and Rubens

It’s been a week so we think it’s time for another post. This one is a lesser known painting and a fun story. The Lion and the Mouse is a collaborative painting by Peter Paul Rubens and his friend Frans Snyder. It hangs in Chequers Court, the official country residence of the British Prime Minister. The scene is from one of Aesop’s fables. In that story the lion captures the mouse but then shows mercy and lets it go. A few days later, the lion is captured in a hunter’s net and the mouse chews through the net to free him. Mercy and kindness come back to our benefit.

But our main reason for using this painting is that blasted mouse. He’s almost impossible to see. Try to find him before reading on. He’s near the bottom left corner, sitting on a lump of a root chewing through the rope. You might have spent a few minutes of frustration trying to spot him. It turns out that the nearly invisible mouse really irritated one British prime minister in particular, Winston Churchill, himself a pretty decent painter. And so, right before he left office and vacated Chequers for the last time in 1955, he had the painting taken down from the Great Hall and went to work enlarging and improving on the mouse himself.

Only Churchill could find the cheekiness it takes to improve a classical painting by a Dutch Master. His “improvements” were removed in the 70s and we can’t find a side-by-side image online to compare the two. We really do wonder which we would’ve like better!

So here’s to collaboration (intended or unintentional!), mercy, and a light touch of chutzpah.

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