Blenheim Palace Images

Blenheim Palace

North Portico Ceiling

The eyes were originally painted in 1928 for Gladys Deacon, the American-born second wife of the 9th Duke of Marlborough. The dramatic eyes, depicting three blue and three brown, were painted by the decorative painter and artists, Colin Gill. Gladys, who was famed for her blue eyes, is said to have climbed the scaffold to give the artist a bright blue silk scarf to work from. It is of note that there are very few other signs of Gladys Deacon at the Palace aside from a single photograph inside the Palace State Rooms, and on the faces of the stone sphinxes in the Lower Water Terraces.

The reason for the unusual eyes being painted remains something of a mystery and has baffled the historians as there is no written documentation about them. Speculation has included possible connections to the mystical 'number three' and the symbolic 'evil eye', or that the brown eyes could belong to the American heiress Consuelo Vanderbilt, first wife of the 9th Duke.

An early photograph showing the eyes being painted has a caption by Gladys "Colin Gill painting our eyes". For this reason they are believed to be the eyes of the Duke and Duchess watching over the Palace. Credit: John Ward. All Rights Reserved.

Image ID
Woodstock, Oxfordshire
March 24, 2011
March 24, 2011
51.8414420° N, 1.3609960° W
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Image Type
digital photo
File Type
Original Filename
John Ward