Monday, September 29, 2008
My birthday this year was exceptional. The Governor of Pennsylvania hosted a private reception for the Art Association @ the Governor's Residence downtown Harrisburg. The day before my actual birthday happened to be the date of the reception. While the Governor himself wasn't there, he left some excellent cheese for us. The entire first floor was open for us to view the art & artifacts housed there in the mansion. I have seen beautiful houses and wonderful classic American silver-ware, but as I followed Andrea through the different rooms, I studying the paintings on the walls and she, remembering her grandmother's dining room (which had been decorated just like the parlor room); I noticed next to the main entry, sitting quite humbly above a chair, a portrait of George Washington. I thought as I approached, 'how nice... they have a copy of Rembrandt Peale's portrait of Washington' next to a grandfather clock made in Harrisburg (which was written on it's face). And then followed Andrea to the Parlor in question where she had been reading a book about Van Gogh. We discussed the decor being very similar to her grandmother's dining room in Illinois when she was a little girl. The room was all turquoise with mural-print wallpaper of Indians and rivers. There were oriental vases all around with a lot of turquoise in them. The lamps also stuck strictly to this design motif without protest of the slightest kind. I looked to the end of the room, and again tucked quite modestly on small walls aside the fireplace mantle, were two portraits that reminded me of one artist whose work I studied for hours, standing @ the Museum of Fine Arts in Boston when I lived there. I stood transfixed for many hours for many days on end, so I was pretty sure the style was after Sir Joshua Reynolds. As I had done when I drew near enough to read the inscription on the plaque on the frame of the portrait of Washington in the Great Hall with the parquet floor like the Boston Garden from my childhood; even though it said clearly Sir Joshua Reynolds, as the other had said Rembrandt Peale; I had it in my mind that they were copies or something, and assumed so confidently. When we were looking @ something else (Tom Ridge's solid metal cutout of the United States in map style with Pennsylvania shooting out the face like Superman lettering probably), the Governor's Secretary, the nicest woman, of course came around to see if we were enjoying ourselves. We were, and I pointed to Washington well-preserved in the shadows above the Butler's Chair, by the grandfather clock next to the Main Entry, and I said, "that isn't..." and she said, "it IS!" And I doubled about and guffawed and squealed and made some more disbelieving expressions, being the fool all the while! It and the two others were in fact original paintings by the original artists. This is the purpose of this blog entry, to express my amazement and wonderment and gratitude. And to say that that was a great thing to see and a great way to see it.