Tuesday, January 26, 2016

The Maven Daemon Takes Manhattan - Part II

When we last left our Maven Daemon in Part I, she was leaving the Morgan Library and Museum and heading up Fifth Avenue on foot when spectacular Neo-Gothic architecture came into view – St. Patrick's Cathedral.

Exterior of St. Patrick’s Cathedral in Manhattan
As you can see above, the flamboyant Gothic exterior includes two spires that rise 330 feet (101 meters) above the street. The cathedral’s massive bronze doors (inspired by the doors of the cathedral of Florence) include sculptures of saints and weighs 9,200 pounds.

Saint Patrick’s Cathedral is a stunning symbol of faith in the heart of the city and is the largest Gothic cathedral in the United States, covering an entire city block. (The juxtaposition of ornate, lacy stonework of Old World in the middle of the sleek skyscraping New World is exquisite!) The cornerstone for St. Patrick’s was laid in 1858 in an area that was primarily farmland.  For that reason, building this religious structure was ridiculed as a "folly" as it was considered too far outside the city at that time.  Apparently, Matthew isn’t the only one to scoff at magnificent construction and call it an "ill-conceived folly." Right, Hamish? ;)

Although not on her bucket list much less that day’s agenda, she quickly added the Manhattan Roman-Catholic landmark to both lists and ducked inside.  It immediately brought to mind Matthew de Clermont, the stonemason.

Interior of St. Patrick’s Cathedral facing the High Altar and Baldacchino
Inside the cathedral, slender marble pillars support the cross-ribbed vaults that rise 110 feet above the nave.  The vaulting could not be viewed without thinking of Gallowglass and Diana’s conversation:

“That’s a whole lot of vaulting,” I murmured. The ribbing was far more complicated than in most Gothic churches in England. “That’s what happens when Matthew gets an idea in his head,” Gallowglass commented.”  ~ Shadow of Night

Alas, that was a different cathedral, different vaulting, but the ceiling of St. Patrick’s Cathedral provided that specific All Souls recollection with visual underscoring.

A breathtaking example of the cross-ribbed vaults above the cathedral organ
We aren't the only ones who see a cathedral and think of the All Souls Trilogy.  As coincidence should have it, the Book Junkie tweeted us:

The video from that tweet is:  Building the Great Cathedrals on PBS.  It’s riveting and is a testament to the structural feats that medieval engineers achieved.  After watching this feature, you may just have a new respect and appreciation (and understanding) for Matthew the stonemason.

Alrighty – now that we’re done with that diversion, let’s go upward and onward to the original destination - The Frick Collection.

Once again, if you ever find yourself in New York City with free time, consider visiting The Frick Collection. However, take note that no children under age 10 are allowed admission and picture taking is extremely limited and only allowed in a couple locations in the museum.  (Therefore, although the items that are described below were seen with Daemon eyes in person, many photos in this feature were obtained from Frick Collection sources, i.e., their website and YouTube channel.  We may be Dameons, but rules are rules.)

☞ Before we dive in, here’s a quick history of the Frick Collection: “the collection was assembled by the Pittsburgh industrialist Henry Clay Frick (1849–1919) and is housed in his former residence on Fifth Avenue. One of New York City’s few remaining Gilded Age mansions, it provides a tranquil environment for visitors to experience masterpieces by artists such as Bellini, Rembrandt, Vermeer, Gainsborough, Goya, and Whistler. The museum opened in 1935 and has continued to acquire works of art since Mr. Frick’s death.”  Much of what you see today is exactly how it looked when the Frick Family occupied their home.

Although the Maven Daemon went hoping to view a specific All Souls Trilogy inspiration, she had no idea that it would be like stepping into an All Souls book altogether.  Artifacts are liberally displayed without many encasements, cordons or glass partitions. (Leonard Shoreditch take caution!)  Traipsing through the mansion is what we imagine what walking into a de Clermont home may be like. (Pure awe!)

First things first – the All Souls inspiration! The hunt was on to find “Domenico.”  Yes, Domenico!  There he was – right where he was supposed to be – in the Andrea del Sarto exhibit. Okay, so it was del Sarto’s Portrait of a Young Man, but it’s also Deborah Harkness’s inspiration for All Souls character, Domenico Michele!  Having only seen him through what Deb has shared and through online searches, it was a squee-worthy moment to see him in the “wild.”

Andrea del Sarto’s Portrait of a Young Man (Deborah Harkness’s inspiration for Domenico Michele)
For more information on the artist and this exhibit, check out The Frick Collection’s video:  Andrea del Sarto: Renaissance Workshop in Action.

Gleaned from The Book of Life that Ysabeau owns at least a few pieces of Sèvres, moving along to the Portico Gallery was a must. It houses the Sèvres to Fifth Avenue exhibit.  It was a sight to see the fine French porcelain and its vibrant turquoise blue color. 

This specific color was invented in 1753 by the chemist Jean Hellot, an eminent member of the Academy of Sciences employed by Sèvres to develop new colors and refine existing ones. Hellot’s brilliant turquoise blue, also called "bleu céleste" or "bleu du roi", was first used as the ground color of a dinner service made in 1753 for Louis XV...

…and, it seems made for Ysabeau de Clermont too - give or take a few decades? ;)

 “Verin and Fernando stared at the plates before them and exchanged a look. Marthe adored the eye-popping Bleu Celeste pattern Ysabeau had commissioned in the eighteenth century…” ~ The Book of Life

Example of Sèvres Bleu Celeste porcelain in The Frick Collection / Photo: virtual tour
Close up of the vases:  Vases Duplessis à Enfants,’ Vincennes Porcelain Manufactory, 1753. Named after Jean-Claude Duplessis, who invented their unusual shape around 1750 / photo: website
Heading out of the Portico Gallery and into the Library, it was thrilling to see portraits by the artist that once painted Philippe and Ysabeau - Sir Joshua Reynolds.


Sir Joshua Reynolds works are permanent acquisitions of The Frick Collection.

Left and right paintings were painted by Sir Joshua Reynolds / Photo: virtual tour
A closer look at Selina, Lady Skipwith by Sir Joshua Reynolds, 1787 / Photo: website
A closer look at Elizabeth, Countess of Warwick by Sir Joshua Reynolds, 1780 / Photo: website
There are several other works by Reynolds (and his rival, Thomas Gainsborough), but we’ll leave them for you to spot when you visit!

Moving out of the Library and into the next grand room, you are sure to see more artists that are mentioned in the All Souls Trilogy, but one is certainly an eye-catching classic!  While the de Clermonts may think nothing of hanging of a More portrait by Holbein in their loo (be still Phoebe's heart!), Mr. Frick displayed his in the Living Hall.

"There’s a Holbein. In the bathroom.” She pressed her hands against her cheeks. “A small oil painting of Thomas More’s daughter, Margaret. It shouldn’t be hung over a toilet!” …
“Would it help to know that there are other, far larger and more important works by Holbein in the parlor?” “And upstairs. The whole sainted family is in one of the attics.” Ysabeau pointed heavenward." ~ The Book of Life

Left and right paintings:  Sir Thomas More and Thomas Cromwell by Hans Holbein the Younger / Photo: virtutal tour
(The precise positioning of the paintings -- More and Cromwell flanking the fireplace and opposing each other -- was not lost on us!)
A closer look at Sir Thomas More by Hans Holbein the Younger, 1527 / Photo: website
A closer look at Thomas Cromwell by Hans Holbein the Younger, 1532-33/ photo: website
The original portrait in Frick's collection (as seen in a 1915 photograph) showed a painted scroll above Cromwell's head referring to his position as the Master of the Jewel House ("To our trusty and right well beloved Councillor, Thomas Cromwell, Master of our Jewel House"), but it was removed during an early 20th century Frick restoration.
FUN FACT:  Tudor devotees are sure to recognize these famous works, and if you watched BBC's Wolf Hall, you may have even spotted the Cromwell likeness of the Holbein portrait during an episode! ;)

Thomas Cromwell portrayed by Mark Rylance in BBC’s Wolf Hall
There are a plethora of other masterpieces in The Frick Collection that remind us of the All Souls world – like Dutch Masters - Vermeer, Hals and Rembrandt with whom we like to imagine that Matthew may have crossed paths after he purchased his home in Amsterdam during the Dutch Golden Age.

“Matthew’s house in Amsterdam turned out to be a seventeenth-century mansion on the most beautiful stretch of the Herengracht. He had, Matthew explained, bought it right after he left Scotland in 1605.” ~ Shadow of Night

There are bronze sculptures of The Labors of Hercules that recall Philippe and a myriad of other works of art related to Greek mythology, but we’ll leave you with the star of the All Souls series, Diana!

Diana the Huntress by Jean-Antoine Houdon / Photo: virtual tour
Related links:
The Frick Collection
Introduction to The Frick Collection (YouTube video)

Follow us on Facebook - Twitter - Pinterest - Tumblr - Instagram - Subscribe