What Do George Washington and Cleopatra Have in Common?
In his new book, At Home: A Short History of Private Life, Bill Bryson points out that the paints that the colonial Americans used weren't muted as we would expect-- the time when George Washington and Thomas Jefferson were decorating Mount Vernon and Monticello coincided with the advent of bright pigments, and so to show off how rich you were (remembering that houses were lit with candles) you wanted walls as bright as possible-- and when Mount Vernon began restoring the interiors to their original colors, people were appalled, and Bryson says that now Washington and Jefferson "come across as having the decorative instincts of hippies," and this reminds me of when I was in Egypt, traveling down the Nile and touring the many ancient, eroded and sun-bleached temples covered in faded hieroglyphics, and then got to enter Nefertari's tomb in the Valley of the Queens and see the perfectly preserved hieroglyphics, which were brightly painted and detailed, and, of course, had the same revelation: the place looked like a hippy trip-out den, far from my dusty imaginings of ancient Egypt . . . will historians eventually have the same epiphany about fashions from the 1980's?