Tuesday, September 30, 2014

Revere and Copley

One day during my recent travels, I visited the Boston Museum of Fine Arts. It's quite a place, with vast collections of furniture, paintings, sculptures, decorative arts from all around the world. It's is truly one of the best museums in the world. They also have beautiful silver serving pieces, from Europe and from America.
This time I focus on Paul Revere, whose portrait by John Singleton Copley hangs in a case along with some of his finest silver service. In the painting, he holds a lovely teapot that is so reflective, you could almost reach out and take it from him. It was painted in 1768. They were friends, and Revere sat for the portrait. Copley painted this seven years before Revere's famous "ride".

By the way, it was expensive to have one's portrait painted, and unusual to look so casual, without a coat. Revere's descendants did not understand this, and had the picture stored in their attic! But, if you look closely you can see he is wearing a vest with gold buttons. The shirt, rolled up at the sleeve, is of linen, a political statement, as there was not to be linen used in American unless it was imported. Boston ladies objected to this, and in that year, they made over 100 yards of linen for themselves! Revere is supposed to have honored this act of defiance, sporting a symbol of his country's freedom! The teapot is intriguing as well. Only Tories (loyalists) drank tea. Whigs (revolutionaries) drank "Boston Tea" which was actually punch. Paul shows his expert workmanship, not merely a vessel for tea. Though Copley finished the portrait, he was torn as he was connected with the Tories, so he signed it, but in extremely tiny letters that you really have to look for them. His political statement!

Wednesday, September 24, 2014

Back from the Big Apple

Home now after a wonderful vacation, I am back with some stories from my trip back east. I will be blogging a bit about some eighteenth century things I saw while back in New York City, and in Boston.

Today, I write about the 9/11 Museum at the One World Trade Tower Center in Manhattan. The new tower is quite magnificent, if only one, but the grounds surrounding show where the original two towers stood, with their enormous fountains that are a memorial to those who lost their lives that terrible day. I can't say the museum's artifacts are exciting to see, nor do they elicit the same response as when we go to a museum and see beautiful objects. Rather, they serve as a remembrance of the horror, the utter destruction. Since everything was virtually disintegrated, there are only some personal artifacts, which are sad to see, i.e. someone's wallet, another person's shoe, a note pad with appointments, etc. Then there are the enormous girders, foundation walls, elevator engines, etc that almost look like gruesome sculptural pieces. It's something to see, but perhaps just once.

But! among the excavations for constructing the new building, workers found some interesting Colonial artifacts from early New York. Most of lower Manhattan was built over a landfill. These artifacts pre-date the Revolutionary War, unearthed in 2006. One of them a clay pipe bowl, another a key, a letter "A", and a tiny minute man figure. It's fascinating to imagine who they might have belonged to.
As time will permit, I will highlight some other finds from my trip, but for now, I am drowning at the desk!