11.26.2007

new york feature: mr. morgan's library



In 1902, owning more treasures than his Madison Avenue home could hold, Pierpont Morgan commissioned Charles Follen McKim (1847–1909) to build a library for them. McKim was regarded as the dean of American architecture; his style infused classical discipline with measured grandeur and opulence, and he proposed to build Morgan an Italianate marble library that would pay architectural tribute to the High Renaissance. In 2006, a century after its completion, the McKim building has remained little changed since Morgan's day. Both the exterior and interior of the original building are designated New York City Landmarks; the secretary of the interior has designated the library a national historic landmark.

The Library (shown above) is by far the largest and grandest of the rooms in the McKim building. This room, with its triple tiers of bookcases fashioned of bronze and inlaid Circassian walnut, originally housed most of Pierpont Morgan's books. Above the fireplace is a sixteenth-century Brussels tapestry. Harry Siddons Mowbray's ceiling paintings feature portraits of great men of the past alternating with female muses and signs of the zodiac.





Now open to the public for the first time, the Librarian's Office (above) is located at the north end of the Rotunda. This is the smallest of the McKim rooms and was the office of Belle da Costa Greene, Morgan's personal librarian, a leading figure in the international art world, and the first director of the Morgan. In addition to a number of original furnishings, the Librarian's Office contains, among other objects, a bronze candelabrum with figures of Juno, Minerva, and Venus by Antoine-Louis Barye, and a bronze sculpture of John Ruskin by Gutzon Borglum. The bronze bust over the mantle, formerly thought to be of Petrarch, has recently been identified as Boccacio, and was made after a marble bust by Giovanni Francesco Rustici. The ceiling paintings are by James Wall Finn and his studio.





The Study is the most sumptuous and yet personal of the rooms and the one that best reflects the personal tastes of its original occupant. It was here that Morgan met with art dealers, scholars, business colleagues, and friends. With few exceptions, all the paintings, sculpture and decorative objects in the Study were here in Pierpont Morgan's day. The paintings are primarily by Italian and Northern Renaissance masters; the objets d'art range in date from the third millennium B.C. to the nineteenth century, and give some indication of the original scope and diversity of Morgan's once vast holdings.




The interior of the McKim building consists of three rooms radiating off the east, north and west sides of the Rotunda, a vaulted entrance foyer. The restrained simplicity of the building's façade yields to the splendor of color and texture in the Rotunda, supplied by variegated marble surfaces and columns, mosaic panels and columns of lapis lazuli. The marble floor, with its central porphyry disc, owes its design to that of the Villa Pia in the Vatican gardens. The decorative programs for the apse, ceiling and lunettes of the Rotunda were designed and executed by Harry Siddons Mowbray.




:The Morgan Library & Museum, 225 Madison Avenue (at 36th Street); for more information on the permanent collection, current and future exhibitions, visit The Morgan website.

23 comments:

Persephone said...

This is one of my favorite places in New York. I am lucky enough to work nearby. Added bonus: they have a great little restaurant to stop and have tea.

Luisa Perkins said...

I haven't been there in ages. It's just stupendous.

studio wellspring said...

wonderful post ~ i'd love to visit it someday!

All Things Bright and Beautiful....Creative Flair Chic said...

WOW!! what a spectacular post !! I would love to visit there some day :-)

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