Personifying history, a red-robed woman calls up the spirits of the past from the cavernous ruins of a temple below. The figure to her right carries a bound codex book and the torch of science.
- Puvis de Chavannes, Pierre, 1824-1898
- Lanzel, Sheryl
- Boston Public Library
Boston Public Library
- Collection (local):
Mural Cycles at the Central Library in Copley Square
Chavannes Gallery Murals: The Muses of Inspiration Hail the Spirit, the Messenger of Light by Pierre Puvis de Chavannes
- 1 painting : mural, oil on canvas ; visible image 14 x 7 feet
Copyright (c) Sheryl Lanzel
All rights reserved.
- Notes (date):
On May 25, 1893, the Trustees of the BPL contracted Pierre Puvis de Chavannes for mural work completed between 1893 and 1896. As the aging artist was reluctant to travel to Boston, he painted the panels on canvas in his Neuilly studio in France. The panels were then shipped over to the library; installation was completed in 1896.
Title from: Puvis de Chavannes, Pierre, "Description of the Decorative Paintings."
French artist Pierre Puvis de Chavannes (1824-1898) was regarded as one of the best muralists of the 19th century, with works installed at the Sorbonne, the Hotel de Ville, and the Pantheon in Paris. The library Trustees went against their original goal of highlighting American artists and craftsmen in the 1895 McKim Building, seeking the commission from Puvis given his high reputation. The Trustees contracted Puvis in May 1895, and a contract for the work was signed on July 7th of that year offering payment of 250,000 francs (approximately $50,000) over installments, a sum several times what Puvis had been paid for similar works. As the aging artist was reluctant to travel the great distance to Boston, library architect Charles Follen McKim sent him a sample of the yellow Siena marble used in the staircase area, along with photographs and precise dimensions of each panel enclosure. Puvis completed the works in his large studio in Neuilly, Paris, France, and after exhibiting the works in Paris shipped the panels to Boston for final installation in 1895-96 under the watch of the artist's assistants. The long panel adjacent to Bates Hall depicts The Muses of Inspiration, while the panels surrounding the staircase depict "four great expressions of the human mind" in eight parts: Philosophy, Astronomy, History, Chemistry, Physics, Pastoral Poetry, Dramatic Poetry, and Epic Poetry. The installation of this, Puvis' only mural work outside of France, was completed in 1896.
- Notes (object):
Canvases completed in Puvis' studio in Paris and shipped over to Boston for installation in 1895-96. Canvas applied to the walls of the grand staircase gallery using an adhesive technique called marouflage. The artist used encaustic wax in the painting process to make the surface appear matte and more fresco-like.
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