William Starkweather..

Starkweather's Symbolism

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Symbolism and Iconography of William Edward Bloomfield Starkweather.

Wooden Nickels
Watercolor, 1929

Throughout William Starkweather’s life, he was fascinated with the symbolic imagery of painters. He expressed himself with visual icons in many of his own paintings. Some of the paintings have been captured through black and white photography at the Smithsonian Museum of American Art.

Some of the paintings were in the Starkweather Museum, Whips of Olympus and Portrait of Mrs. Vanderbilt. Some of the paintings are in the collections of individuals who purchased Starkweather paintings: William Blake Theme, Goya Theme, El Greco Theme, Van Gogh Theme, Fantasy Theme, and Expert Classical Criticism. Several are in the permanent collection of the James Madison University Art Collection: Christians and Pagans and several Cave Paintings.

Fantasy on Leonardo painted in 1961 is the last known painting by William E. B. Starkweather. The watercolor is loaded with symbolism and suggesting the artist is succumbing to the reality of age and what may be beyond living on earth. In this painting, we see an older Leonardo DaVinci with a triptych behind him in arches of the Mona Lisa and two of Leonardo’s Madonna’s and children paintings. Saint John the Baptist [San Giovanni Battista] is pointing to heaven and his cross is faintly painted in the background. The painting, San Giovanni Battista is believed to be DaVinci’s last painting. There is a skull, a cat and the famous inverted writing that was typical of DaVinci. Across the bottom of the painting it says, No mi legga a chi non e matematico nelli mia principi. Let no one read me who is not a mathematician Do not read my work if you are not a mathematician. The skull has been symbolized as a reminder of life’s impermanence. Throughout history the cat can be interpreted to symbolize God. Leonardo was quoted to say a cat is nature’s masterpiece. 

Smithsonian Museum of American Art

James Madison University University Art Collection

Museum of Art at Endless Caverns

Fantasy on Leonardo
Last known Starkweather painting

Starkweather probably created Fantasy on Leonardo as his last painting and we believe he is asking the elder Leonardo for permission to move from earth to heaven.
His portfolio of art is leaning next to the red tablecloth by Leonardo and St. John the Baptist is pointing up.

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