These seven canvases by Edward Steichen (1879-1973) were created between 1910 and 1914 as a mural series to decorate the foyer of a townhouse on Park Avenue in New York City. The owners, Mr. and Mrs. Eugene Meyer, Jr., commissioned the work to be more than decorative but also biographical. The panels feature the Meyers’ family and their close associates. Steichen himself was a member of this collective, and thus had an intimate understanding of the temperaments and interests of the group.
In each panel, Steichen placed alongside each sitter botanical specimens that aligned with their dominant personality traits. Steichen drew particular inspiration for these floral personifications from the book The Intelligence of Flowers (1907) by Symbolist poet and playwright Maurice Maeterlinck.
This was an extension of the practice among the group of using floral names to address one another in correspondence and in humorous and creative ways. The layered meanings embedded in the mural were not readily apparent to those outside the Meyers’ social circle. – James A. Michener Art Museum