Sunday, 11 January 2009
A Piper at the Gates of War
In 1915, the most celebrated fairy painting of the Edwardian era was first exhibited at the Royal Academy. 'The Piper of Dreams' immediately caught the collective imagination of a generation. In terms of the reproductions that soon followed, the image rivalled Holman Hunt's 'The Light of the World' in popularity, with over a quarter of a million copies sold in the first year of its appearance. The artist, Estella Louisa Michaela Canziani (1887 - 1964) enjoyed a long and successful career, and created a body of work which earned her great acclaim, but it was for the diminutive figure of the child piper, a robin perched on his boot, and the swirl of ephemeral creatures from the fairy realm circling about him that she is best known. It is no surprise that Canziani's painting offered escape from the drudgery of the everyday, and specifically, from the horrors of the Great War. It was the image most frequently sent to soldiers in the trenches from their loved ones at home, and as a consequence it was claimed that sales of 'The Piper of Dreams' single-handedly saved the Medici Society, the reproduction's publisher, from bankruptcy during the war years.