Based on an 1887 poem about an artist who dies while painting his love’s face on the floor of a bar, the literal Face on the Barroom Floor in Colorado’s Teller House Bar was simply the work of a wronged painter.
Artist Herndon Davis was commissioned to paint a number of works about Central City’s history as a mining town as the city made the transition into an opera town and tourist destination. However, after getting in an argument with the project director and nearly being fired, Davis decided to lash out at his employers and paint the famous face on their barroom floor, which he thought perfectly modeled the one in the poem. With the help of a staff member Davis snuck in and painted a woman’s face on the floor, modeled after Davis’ wife Nita. Unfortunately for Davis, his revenge backfired. When the artful graffiti was discovered the next day, the bar decided to capitalize on the work and credited the painting to the poem’s original author.
The painting has survived to this day and is sectioned off with stanchions and the work has been correctly accredited. The Face on the Barroom Floor may be proof that art rarely makes an effective revenge.