Acrylic on a little 8″ square canvas. The scene is from Dumb Witness.
There’s nothing particularly newsworthy about reused props in a television series, or in more than one series made by the same people. But it’s fun to point them out all the same. In Poirot, you’ve got a good 25-year span to notice them in. I recount a sampling of these occurrences…
Possibly the single most obviously reused painting is this guy, because the picture is specifically focused on in the episodes The Mystery of the Spanish Chest, where the painting features prominently at the men’s club, and Dumb Witness, in which the painting at the Arundell house dramatically falls from the wall.
Another fairly easy-to-spot painting of a mother and her sick child appears in at least three episodes: Dead Man’s Mirror, The Murder of Roger Ackroyd, and Third Girl. The painting functions as a major plot point in the first of the three, and this makes it easier for fans to spot the same painting appearing in Ackroyd’s home and in David Baker’s studio.
Some recognizable paintings are not merely reused props so much as entire locations. The Adventure of Johnnie Waverly and Third Girl share a location, Wrotham Park, as shots like these indicate.
But for me, the most interesting of all is this painting here. It is a fairly unremarkable little scene that took up residence behind the sitting room fruit bowl, so that we see it in several episodes.
But when The Mysterious Affair at Styles is filmed, we might be astonished to discover that this very same painting hung in Poirot’s own room at Leastways Cottage, where he was living by the charity of Mrs. Inglethorp!
More remarkable still: when Poirot retires (temporarily) to his little house in King’s Abbot in The Murder of Roger Ackroyd, that painting is again in his residence! (Far left)
I guess it may be that the art department was running out of paintings of a certain sort to shuffle around. I myself like to imagine that there’s an untold story here. Did Poirot take the painting away from Leastways Cottage when he left to remind him of his humble beginnings at Styles, his generous sponsor there, and the first major case he investigated in his new country? Did the picture have sufficient sentimental value from the past that he could have even had it sent over from Belgium when he first emigrated, and subsequently installed it in each new dwelling where he lived? Ah, the unsolved mysteries…
‘Is it really necessary to tell such elaborate lies, Poirot?’ I asked as we walked away.
Poirot shrugged his shoulders.
‘If one is going to tell a lie at all– and I notice, by the way, that your nature is very much averse to lying– now, me, it does not trouble at all– ‘
‘So I’ve noticed,’ I interjected.
‘–As I was remarking, if one is going to tell a lie at all, it might as well be an artistic lie, a romantic lie, a convincing lie!’
So I finished painting the last four Hastings novels (fighting Peril at End House tooth and nail along the way, using a sample of my “two shots spliced together” technique for Lord Edgware Dies, trying a bit of tiny landscape painting with Dumb Witness, and rounding them all off with a slightly impressionistic The Murder on the Links). Now what?
These little books were pretty time-consuming. Each one took a total of at least five to seven hours, including prep time. I had to watch through the episode, collect a bunch of likely screen shots (for some episodes it was as many as two dozen to choose between), choose one and print it out in large and small sizes to work from, paint the cover on, re-read the book, make a list of representative quotes that might fit onto the back, choose one, and paint it on the back. This project had the potential to be wearying.
Unfortunately, it was also really stupidly fun. And tremendously addictive. I wanted to carry on, but if I kept going, where would it end?
I’d been posting the books on Twitter as I went along. So, at the end of my Hastings novels, this conversation happened:
Well, that was it. It was onward to the bitter end. “Please don’t” stop? I’ve created fan art on WAY less provocation than that.
If Suchet could finish all of Christie’s Poirot novels without whining, so could I. Maybe it wouldn’t even take me 25 years.
(to be continued)