A few weeks ago, we were delightfully surprised during our visit to the Maryland Historical Society (MDHS) in Baltimore, MD. We literally ran into my great great grandfather!
Sure, we were aware that the MDHS held an old family painting by “Bon Père” or “Bumpy,” as later generations in Baltimore called him, but we figured it was probably stored away in some dark vault, hidden from public eyes. My, were we wrong! While innocently walking around what appears to be a permanent exhibit, Four Centuries of Maryland History, we were thrilled to find the painting located just around the corner from a dramatic display on the Great Baltimore Fire.
The informative plague tells it all:
Here’s a close-up of the artist’s signature, with the title of the painting immediately above: Home! Home! Sweet Home. Further up, in French, is “Où! peut-on être mieux,” which, according to Wikipedia, is translated: “Where can one be better than in his family.” Quite a fitting commentary on the subject of the painting, however, there’s more to the story!
It is also the title of what “was an unofficial national anthem of the Kingdom of France during the First Restoration and Second Restoration between 1815 and 1830. This song was mainly played during the presence of the royal family and comes from the play Lucile by Jean-Francois Marmontel, which was first played on January 5, 1769. The melody was composed by Liège André Grètry. The melody was later taken up by the Verviétois Henri Vieuxtemps in the Adagio of his Fifth Violin Concerto.” This must have been a familiar tune to Edward. Aren’t you curious what it sounds like? Well, here it is:
It’s fun to take a closer look at identifiable family members. I’d like to introduce you to the artist below, Edward, who painted himself into the picture.
And below is my grandfather, Pop-Pop, mentioned twice on the plague above: he’s the “grandson at the bottom right” holding the baseball and bat, as well as the contributor, Floris Van Reuth, who donated the painting together with his brother and sister.
An amusing aspect of the installation, given that the family is in the middle of a toast, is that this beautiful painting is the centerpiece of an exhibit featuring old Baltimore breweries. How fitting!
And what’s more, the entire installation is at the end of a long hall that must serve well as a location for festive receptions held at the MDHS. One can imagine setting up the bar in front of the exhibit for a fundraising event and having the honored donors raise their glasses – along with the Van Reuth’s – in celebration of a successful campaign. Cheers!
If you’re planning to visit the MDHS, don’t miss Home! Home Sweet Home. Truth be told, we almost did…but, fortunately, upon exiting, we took a quick turn to the left before leaving the museum. Thought we should check out a wing we had missed…and good thing we did! Had we been truly observant from the beginning, however, we would have noticed the painting on the poster promoting the exhibit, located directly behind the front desk. I am proud that my family (from my mother’s side) is included in Four Centuries of Maryland History, especially as related to two of my favorite indulgences: beer and artful things!