My Favourite Painting: Michael Wainwright

For the first time in a decade, John McEwen takes a look at a Favourite Painting of which neither he nor its owner knows the history.

Michael Wainwright chooses Painting of Flowers:

‘My wife, Annie, and I were on our honeymoon in 1990. We were on a bus to Todi from the monastery where we were staying when we saw this painting and really liked it.

‘We walked to the shop later that evening, but it was closed and we were moving on to San Gimignano next morning. A few days later, I found myself really wanting to buy it, so we telephoned the shop and, in my wife’s pidgin Italian, arranged for funds to be wired from Barclays Bank in England – £1,000 was a lot of money for us then.’

‘I don’t think the painting is particularly valuable, but it has pride of place in our drawing room, if only for the memories it evokes.’

Michael Wainwright is the fifth generation of his family to own the jewellers Boodles, which was founded in 1798.

John McEwen chooses Painting of Flowers:

For the first time in the decade-long life of this page, neither the selector nor I knows anything about the selected artist. He thought it was by ‘G. Rocca’, but closer inspection shows it is signed by Giuseppe Cocco, a listed Italian flower and still-life painter.

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A mystery remains: are the flowers – rose-like in bloom and leaf, but not much else – a hybrid of the artist’s imagination as they spring from the earth, some white, some pink, in joyful arrangement against the slightly threatening grey of what one assumes is the sky?

What makes us pick one painting – one anything – as a favourite choice beyond all others? Sometimes, the invitation to choose an image for this page causes anxiety – exceptionally, even refusal. Anyone who has had a clearout will understand. Yes, we will keep that picture because it has some financial value, but is it really our ‘favourite’? How can one possibly pick just one above all others?

Yet how wonderful that so many people have been willing to do so, revealing through their different tastes the incredible variety and richness of the world’s store of pictures.

Thirty years ago, there were the honeymooning Wainwrights travelling along aboard a local bus in lovely Umbria, when they suddenly saw the Cocco flowers. Later, they found the shop and gazed through the window at the intermingled pink and white blooms. What could better describe their new marital state!

Today, the picture has ‘pride of place’ in their drawing room, ‘if only for the memories it evokes’. But what memories and what better reason for choosing it as a favourite painting? ‘If only’, indeed!

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