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15 Things You Might Not Know About The Blue Boy

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The Blue Boy has been using his defiant stare and unique fashion sense to transfix viewers for centuries. But even art fans may not know that the story of Thomas Gainsborough’s most iconic work is nearly as rich as the fabric of his subject’s blue britches.

1. THE BLUE BOY WAS AN HOMAGE TO SIR ANTHONY VAN DYCK.

In painting The Blue Boy at some point around 1770, Gainsborough borrowed more than the regal-yet-relaxed look that the 17th century Flemish painter achieved in his portraits. He also pulled his costume inspiration from Van Dyck's Portrait of Charles, Lord Strange

2. THE BLUE BOY WAS NO ROYAL.

Art historians debated the identity of this posh-looking lad for centuries. Today’s scholars believe him to be Jonathan Buttall, the young son of an affluent hardware merchant who had befriended Gainsborough. 

3. THE BOY MIGHT BE BLUE OUT OF SPITE. 

Gainsborough had a heated rivalry with his portrait-painting peer Sir Joshua Reynolds. Some art historians have suggested that The Blue Boy was conceived as a glorious means of refuting Reynold's declarations on color. Specifically, Reynolds believed: 

"It ought, in my opinion, to be indispensably observed, that the masses of light in a picture be always of a warm, mellow colour, yellow, red, or a yellowish white, and that the blue, the grey, or the green colours be kept almost entirely out of these masses, and be used only to support or set off these warm colours; and for this purpose, a small proportion of cold colour will be sufficient." 

4. IT WASN'T THE FIRST PAINTING GAINSBOROUGH PUT ON THIS CANVAS.

In 1939, an X-ray was taken of the painting that revealed the canvas had once been an incomplete painting of an older man, before it was cut down and repainted with the boy. But that’s not the only X-ray surprise—in 1995, it was discovered that Gainsborough had originally painted a dog to go alongside the boy. But it got covered up by a pile of rocks, possibly because, in the words of curator Shelley Bennett, “maybe Gainsborough thought all that fluff fought with the boy's hat." 

5. THE BLUE BOY DREW RAVE REVIEWS.

Gainsborough had high hopes for the piece's reception when it debuted in 1770 at the Royal Academy, a prestigious venue that had only opened a year before. He was not disappointed. The incredible play of color and thoughtful brush strokes of The Blue Boy made it an instantly adored hit. 

6. GAINSBOROUGH PREFERRED TO PAINT LANDSCAPES.

Though he is remembered for portraits like The Blue Boy, Gainsborough famously declared (in the third person), "He painted portraits for money, and landscapes because he loved them.” 

7. THE BLUE BOY WAS A KEY INSPIRATION TO EARLY FILM DIRECTOR F.W. MURNAU.

The German director is best known for his 1922 silent horror film Nosferatu, but in 1919, Murnau made his directorial debut with Der Knabe in Blau, or The Boy in Blue. Only a few frames of the film remain today, but among them is a shot of a boy who seems to have stepped straight out of Gainsborough's masterpiece.

8. THE BLUE BOY INFLUENCED DJANGO UNCHAINED.

In the 2012 Quentin Tarantino western, the titular anti-hero doles out bloody vengeance draped in a bright blue suit that looks eerily similar to the one in Gainsborough's famous work. Costume designer Sharen Davis confirmed this inspiration, telling Vanity Fair, "Quentin had it in the script as powder blue. And I said, 'I just can’t do that. It is very '70s, but that’s going to look like polyester no matter what I make it out of.' I slipped a copy of Thomas Gainsborough’s The Blue Boy in the back of the research book. He didn’t say anything, but he saw it. He sort of said later, 'Oh! Make him look like Blue Boy.'"

9. THE PIECE IS QUITE LARGE.

The Blue Boy is essentially life-sized, measuring in 70.0 by 44.1 inches. 

10. THE BLUE BOY'S MODEL OWNED THE PIECE FOR A BIT.

Although the Blue Boy himself owned the painting at one point, in 1796 a desperate Buttall declared bankruptcy and sold the unique portrait to politician John Nesbitt. By 1802, the work had been passed on to acclaimed portrait artist John Hoppner before being sold to the Earl Grosvenor in 1809. It remained with the Earl's family for more than a century. 

11. THE PAINTING'S FAME GREW THROUGH REPRODUCTIONS.

Exhibitions at the British Institution and the Royal Academy won the painting further critical acclaim, while prints of the piece made it popular with the masses. By the early 1920s, The Blue Boy was a gem in England's artistic crown. 

12. ITS SALE WAS RECORD-BREAKING AND HEARTBREAKING FOR ENGLAND.

Thanks to this growing esteem, The Blue Boy’s 1921 sale to American railroad tycoon Henry Edwards Huntington caused a massive outcry among the English, who were horrified that The Blue Boy should leave his homeland. Though the exact sales figure is a matter of debate, Encyclopaedia Britannica pegs it at roughly $700,000 (or about $9.3 million today), which made it the second most expensive painting in the world, behind Leonardo da Vinci’s Madonna and Child.

13. ENGLAND GRIEVED WITH ONE LAST DISPLAY ... AND A BIT OF VANDALISM.

Before The Blue Boy departed for the U.S., the National Gallery displayed it one last time, drawing an astounding 90,000 people. The Gallery's director, Charles Holmes, was so overcome by the loss that he wrote his own farewell to the piece on its back, which read, "Au Revoir, C.H.

14. IT HAS REMAINED IN AMERICAN HANDS EVER SINCE.

Today The Blue Boy is the pride and joy of the art collection at the Huntington Library in California. 

15. THE BLUE BOY FOUND ITS MATE IN CALIFORNIA.

Sharing the spotlight at the center of the Huntington Library's collection is Pinkie, a portrait of a sweet young girl in a pink dress and bonnet painted by English portraitist Thomas Lawrence. Twenty-four years the junior of Gainsborough's painting, the piece hangs across from The Blue Boy, giving the effect that the two young subjects stare—perhaps longingly—at each other.

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30 Memorable Quotes from Carrie Fisher
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Just days after suffering a heart attack aboard a flight en route to Los Angeles, beloved actress, author, and screenwriter Carrie Fisher passed away at the age of 60 on December 27, 2016. Though she’ll always be most closely associated with her role as Princess Leia in Star Wars, Fisher’s life was like something out of its own Hollywood movie. Born in Beverly Hills on this day in 1956, Fisher was born into show business royalty as the daughter of singer Eddie Fisher and actress Debbie Reynolds.

In addition to her work in front of the camera, Fisher built up an impressive resume behind the scenes, too, most notably as a writer; in addition to several memoirs and semi-autobiographical novels, including Wishful Drinking, Surrender the Pink, Delusions of Grandma, The Best Awful, Postcards from the Edge, and The Princess Diarist (which was released last month), she was also an in-demand script doctor who counted Sister Act, Hook, Lethal Weapon 3, and The Wedding Singer among her credits.

Though she struggled with alcoholism, drug addiction, and mental illness, Fisher always maintained a sense of humor—as evidenced by the 30 memorable quotes below.

ON GROWING UP IN HOLLYWOOD

“I am truly a product of Hollywood in-breeding. When two celebrities mate, someone like me is the result.”

“I was born into big celebrity. It could only diminish.”

“At a certain point in my early twenties, my mother started to become worried about my obviously ever-increasing drug ingestion. So she ended up doing what any concerned parent would do. She called Cary Grant.”

“I was street smart, but unfortunately the street was Rodeo Drive.”

“If anything, my mother taught me how to sur-thrive. That's my word for it.”

ON AGING

“As you get older, the pickings get slimmer, but the people don't.”

ON INSTANT GRATIFICATION

“Instant gratification takes too long.”

ON THE LEGACY OF STAR WARS

“People are still asking me if I knew Star Wars was going to be that big of a hit. Yes, we all knew. The only one who didn't know was George.”

“Leia follows me like a vague smell.”

“I signed my likeness away. Every time I look in the mirror, I have to send Lucas a couple of bucks.”

“People see me and they squeal like tropical birds or seals stranded on the beach.”

“You're not really famous until you’re a Pez dispenser.”

ON THE FLEETING NATURE OF SUCCESS

“There is no point at which you can say, 'Well, I'm successful now. I might as well take a nap.'”

ON DEALING WITH MENTAL ILLNESS

“I'm very sane about how crazy I am.”

ON RESENTMENT

“Resentment is like drinking poison and waiting for the other person to die."

ON LOVE

“Someone has to stand still for you to love them. My choices are always on the run.”

“I've got to stop getting obsessed with human beings and fall in love with a chair. Chairs have everything human beings have to offer, and less, which is obviously what I need. Less emotional feedback, less warmth, less approval, less patience, and less response. The less the merrier. Chairs it is. I must furnish my heart with feelings for furniture.”

“I don’t hate hardly ever, and when I love, I love for miles and miles. A love so big it should either be outlawed or it should have a capital and its own currency.”

ON EMOTIONS

“The only thing worse than being hurt is everyone knowing that you're hurt.”

ON RELATIONSHIPS

“I envy people who have the capacity to sit with another human being and find them endlessly interesting, I would rather watch TV. Of course this becomes eventually known to the other person.”

ON HOLLYWOOD

“Acting engenders and harbors qualities that are best left way behind in adolescence.”

“You can't find any true closeness in Hollywood, because everybody does the fake closeness so well.”

“It's a man's world and show business is a man's meal, with women generously sprinkled through it like overqualified spice.”

ON FEAR

“Stay afraid, but do it anyway. What’s important is the action. You don’t have to wait to be confident. Just do it and eventually the confidence will follow.”

ON LIFE

“I don’t want life to imitate art. I want life to be art.”

“No motive is pure. No one is good or bad-but a hearty mix of both. And sometimes life actually gives to you by taking away.”

“If my life wasn't funny it would just be true, and that is unacceptable.”

“I shot through my twenties like a luminous thread through a dark needle, blazing toward my destination: Nowhere.”

“My life is like a lone, forgotten Q-Tip in the second-to-last drawer.”

ON DEATH

“You know what's funny about death? I mean other than absolutely nothing at all? You'd think we could remember finding out we weren't immortal. Sometimes I see children sobbing at airports and I think, 'Aww. They've just been told.'”

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As a recurring feature, our team combs the Web and shares some amazing Amazon deals we’ve turned up. Here’s what caught our eye today, October 21.

Mental Floss has affiliate relationships with certain retailers, including Amazon, and may receive a small percentage of any sale. But we only get commission on items you buy and don’t return, so we’re only happy if you’re happy. Good luck deal hunting!

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Cr Sleep Ventilated Memory Foam Bed Pillow with AirCell Technology, Standard, 1-Pack for $25.49 (list price $89.99)

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Monkey Hook Picture Hanger Home and Office Pack, 30 pc set for $11.24 (list price $19.75)

Syntus Himalayan Salt Lamp Natural Crystal Salt Light Glow Hand Carved Night Lights Wall light with UL Listed Plug for Lighting, Decoration and Air Purifying for $12.99 (list price $21.99)

LED String Lights 33 ft with 100 LEDs, TaoTronics Waterproof Decorative Lights for Bedroom, Patio, Parties ( Copper Wire Lights, Warm White ) for $14.49 (list price $29.99)

Whitmor Supreme Wide Stacking Shelf, Chrome for $15.35 (list price $32.02)

Hoover FH50251PC Power Scrub Elite Pet Carpet Cleaner for $169.99 (list price $189.00)

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B.I.G. Natural Pre Shave Oil, 60 ml for $12.95 (list price $25.00)

Pure Body Naturals Essential Oils Gift Set, Lavender/Tea Tree/Eucalyptus/Lemongrass/Orange/Peppermint, 6 count - 10 ml for $14.95 (list price $17.95)

Colgate Max Fresh Wisp Disposable Travel Toothbrush, Peppermint - 24 Count for $4.99 (list price $7.99)

Nano Towel Makeup Remover Face Cloth. Remove Cosmetics FAST and Chemical Free. Wipes Away Facial Dirt and Oil Like An Eraser. Great for Sensitive Skin, Acne, Exfoliating, Mascara, etc. 7 x 16" for $14.97 (list price $29.99)

CCS Blackhead Remover Pimple Extractor with Instructions for Acne Comedone Whitehead Blemish Zit Removal Tool Kit for $6.97 (list price $49.97)

Oneleaf 2PCS Professional Pedicure Rasp Foot File Cracked Skin Corns Callus Remover for Extra Smooth and Beauty Foot for $9.99 (list price $19.99)

OUTDOORS, GARDEN, AND SPORTS

Wilson Championship Extra Duty Tennis Ball (4-Pack), Yellow for $15.16 (list price $20.18)

Anker Ultra-Bright Tactical Flashlight with 1300 Lumens, Rechargeable(26650 Battery Included), IP67 Water-Resistant, Bolder LC130 LED with 5 Light Modes For Camping, Security, Emergency Use for $45.99 (list price $112.00)

Enkeeo Foldable Fishing Net Triangular Landing Net with Aluminum Pole and Nylon Mesh, 14.6" Wide for $19.99 (list price $39.99)

G4Free 12x25 Compact Binoculars(BAK4,Green Lens),Large Eyepiece Super High-Powered Field Surveillance Binoculars for $24.99 (list price $39.99)

Stansport Canteen, 4-Quart for $7.97 (list price $10.49)

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Pumie Toilet Bowl Ring Remover #TBR-6 for $9.15 (list price $14.33)

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Picture Hanging Kit Asst for $9.99 (list price $12.99)

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