Botticelli’s Bed & Breakfast | A Magical Pop-Up Treasure Hunt 

Published by Daisy on

I’ve been doing a bit of a clean up of the website, and realised I never shared this early video I made about one of my favourite vintage pop-up books, Welcome to Botticelli’s Bed & Breakfast, by wonderful illustrator Jan Pienkowski.

➤ This book is out of print, but you can look for a copy here:
Amazon | Abes | eBay

The ‘Bed & Breakfast’ of the title is an old house containing ten rooms, in which 56 famous artworks are hiding, and – apart from enjoying the delightful paper engineering – part of the fun is tracking them all down.

The house is displayed in carousel format, meaning you can open it up to a 360° circle, tying the front and back boards together with integrated red ribbons. A small guidebook to the house is included, which shares funny stories about the guests and gives you suggestions on what to look for.

Please watch the video to get a good idea of how it all comes together, but some of the artwork interpretations you can enjoy while visiting include:

  • Dutch painter Johannes Vermeer working in Van Gogh’s attic – Van Gogh himself is apparently absent due to a shaving accident.
  • A Fraser Spiral optical illusion table, where apparent spirals are in fact concentric circles.
  • A strange painting of a skull under the stairs which can only be viewed through a spyhole in the roof, part of a Holbein’s painting The Ambassadors). The skull is a well-known example of ‘anamorphosis‘, meaning it’s a distorted projection that can only be seen properly from a special vantage point, or using a special device.
  • A portrait of Anne Boleyn with a “flap flip” mechanism to lose her head.
  • “Mrs Whistler” (aka Whistler’s Mother) – the oldest resident – who sits in the library watching the Da Vinci Fitness Training Programme.
  • On top of a bookcase, you can see the Portland Vase, which is said to have inspired Keats’ famous Ode on a Grecian Urn, while underneath the tiled ceiling you can see Michelangelo’s Creation of Adam.
  • An underground cave in the basement with prehistoric artwork.
  • One of Albrecht Dürer’s red squirrels appears to have escaped onto the roof.
  • Sir David and Lady Venus (de Milo) are staying in a bathroom where the ceiling features a map of the heavens after an engraving by Willem Blaeu. The towels were left behind by Piet Mondrian, and the Water Lilies toilet freshener was specially imported by Claude Monet.
  • John Constable has painted some skylarks on the ceiling of the master bedroom, which features beautiful tapestry La Dame et la Licorne on the bed curtains. 
  • And of course, Leonardo da Vinci’s smiling maid Lisa, who is looking after all the guests.

There are also a couple of removable pieces in the book, so if you’re buying second-hand do check they are present. As well as the guide to exhibits I mentioned earlier, which is attached via elastic cords in the front of the book, there is also a second guide hidden behind a bookcase flap in the library.

Unfortunately this treasure is long out of print, so it can be expensive to pick up if the seller knows what they have. However, prices vary wildly, so it’s worth checking a few different places for a copy if you love art, humour, treasure hunts and/or pop-up books!

And yes, I’ll be posting my long-promised long list of books with removable ephemera soon I promise, and I’ll link that page here when it’s up… But in the meantime, if you love beautiful pop-ups, do check out some of the other pop-up books I’ve reviewed here.

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