Posts Tagged ‘Boston Public Library’


Beauty is everywhere throughout the Copley Square branch of the Boston Public Library. You just have to look up. 🙂



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They are meant to be viewed from afar, the wall paintings in the Boston Public Library’s Abbey Room, but I do love zooming in on the murals. There’s always something new to appreciate.






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detail from The Arthurian Round Table and the fable of the Seat Perilous

Between 1893 and 1902 fifteen panels were installed in the Boston Public Library in Copley Square depicting the story of The Quest for the Holy Grail. Conceived of by artist Edwin Austin Abbey (1852-1911) he based his work on Lord Alfred Tennyson’s  version of the Arthurian legend. In recent years the BPL has done a magnificent job of capturing the beauty of the full panels and sharing each panel’s story with the public through Flikr. That link is below. When I walk in with my camera I tend to focus in on the details and this is what I recently saw.



detail from King Amfortas and the Castle of the Grail lie under a spell


This time one of my favorite panels to focus on what the last in the sequence, The Golden Tree. According to the BPL summary, an adaptation from an outline by Henry James, “Sir Galahad, now the King of Sarras, builds a golden tree. When he is presented with the Grail, his spirit and the Grail ascend to heaven. Like other elements throughout the mural cycle, the golden tree and the Grail are depicted in gilded raised relief, a method that Abbey may have learned from his studio partner John Singer Sargent.”







Well worth a visit to see in person but until then you can see the full cycle of panels here: https://www.flickr.com/photos/boston_public_library/sets/72157647672175522/with/15258034891/

And if you have a large cup of tea at hand, or something else, you can read Tennyson’s Holy Grail upon which the murals were based. They don’t write poems like this anymore. 🙂 http://d.lib.rochester.edu/camelot/text/tennyson-the-holy-grail

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… at rest on a bright day in the Boston Public Library in Copley Square, Boston.

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In a world filled with such sadness and confusion, I think that is why it is such a pleasure to sit in the Boston Public Library courtyard and stare into these faces filled with such joy and awe.  The actual name of the sculpture is Bacchante and Infant Faun.  It is a replica of the bronze sculpture created by Frederick William MacMonnies.

You can read an interesting and very detailed analysis of the statue’s history in Boston and at the BPL via this link.  In short, while treasured today, this naked figure serving the infant god, Bacchus, caused quite the uproar in 1890’s Boston. Imagine that. 😉

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The Abbey Room at the Boston Public Library, with its richly colored wall paintings, is one of my favorite indoor sites in Boston.  The murals depict the Quest and Achievement of the Holy Grail and, according to the Boston Public Library website, were installed in 1895 by Edwin Austin Abbey.  Today I had the opportunity to drop in for a moment to snap a few photos. Here are a few favorites from the day.  You can read more about the Grail story here and you can read more about Edwin Austin Abbey here.

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Based on yesterday’s post, I was asked by a few folks if I went up one more flight of stairs to view the hands of the Sargent murals.  Oh, yes indeed I did.  I did not begin with the Madonna of Sorrows with her silver crown.  With my limited time, I focused first on the prophets.

At the end of my stay, as I focused more on the Madonna of Sorrows, I had to stand close to a young security guard.  Finally I turned to her and asked, “Do you ever get bored?” She smiled and suddenly looked about twelve years old.  She said, “No, ma’am.  Every day I see something new.”

See all of the Sargent murals, in context, via this link.  This is an excellent site as well: http://www.sargentmurals.bpl.org/


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Hands, hands, hands.  I was surprised in preparing this post to discover that I have written about hands quite a bit over the years. Two posts that moved me most were from four years ago, Hands I and Hands II.   Hands stood out again during a recent visit to the Boston Public Library, visiting yet again the room with the Abbey Murals. I’ve photographed the murals often but this time I tried to focus on the hands.

For those new to the murals, in the 1890s Edwin Austin Abbey began a series of 15 wall paintings depicting The Quest and Achievement of the Holy Grail (based on a version of the legend by Henry James).  They were installed in 1895.

On the BPL website, you can read a description of the 15 panels and the story they depict.  Given how many shy maidens must have their hands kissed by Sir Galahad …

… and how many babes, swords and various vessels must be borne aloft and so on …

… well, it’s clear why Abbey paid so much attention to the hands of his legendary figures.

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While on Newbury Street, I wasn’t far from one of my favorite haunts, the Boston Public Library.  I ventured there with the intent of perusing the new books and then taking a few more shots of the Sargent murals.  But instead of murals, I found myself photographing the bronze doors created for the library by Daniel Chester French.  According to the library website, there are three sets of bronze doors with each weighing 1500 pounds.  The allegorical figures, modeled in low relief, represent Music and Poetry, Knowledge and Wisdom and Truth and Romance.  I’m afraid I did not photograph Knowledge and Wisdom.  Maybe next time. 😉

You can learn more about Daniel Chester French on this Metropolitan Museum of Art page.

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