Cleveland, September

Over the summer I read the wonderful book by David McCullough, The Greater Journey: Americans in Paris, dealing in part with the huge numbers of Americans, especially medical and art students, who ended up in Paris to pursue their education and hone their craft, as the very young United States had no real facilities for them in the early 19th Century. One of the artists that particularly caught my attention was Augustus Saint-Gaudens, the Irish-born sculptor who began his career carving cameos. So I was totally thrilled to learn that Cleveland has not one, but TWO of his sculptures, and immediately informed my hostess Ann that I had to find both of them.

And yesterday I had my wish. First, we found the statue of Marcus Alonzo Hanna in a traffic roundabout, and I was so pleased to see the name:

HPIM0330.jpg image by zecainfrance

You can also read the date, 1907. That was the year Saint-Gaudens died, so I presume this is one of his last works.  And this is what the statue itself looks like:

HPIM0332.jpg image by zecainfrance

Perhaps not the most glamorous of subjects for such an inspiring sculptor, but Ann and I found much to admire-the individual pages of the books he held, the tailoring of his coat, the size of his hands, the perfect shape of his fingernails.  Hanna had been a prominent politician, and opponent of Teddy Roosevelt, and not entirely a statesman in his political dealings–some feel Karl Rove has adapted his general tactics, but he was certainly a man of power and influence in Cleveland. But I was totally pleased to find the statue. It was also fun that Ann was seeing it for the first time, too.

Then across the lawn, and the little lake, to the Cleveland Museum of Art for another Saint-Gaudens. Here’s my less-than-fabulous photos of the fabulous sculpture:

HPIM0338.jpg image by zecainfrance

The title is “Amor Caritas” (it’s also on the tablet the angel is holding) and addresses the difference between romantic, sexual love and a more general, idealistic, universal love. Look at the angel’s wings, framing the entire upper half of the carving. Again, much to admire in toe- and fingernails. I was especially drawn to the pre-Raphaelite strong, asexual beauty of the angel’s face, though I admit to being mystified by the garland of floppy daisies around his (her?) neck and waistline. I felt like I’d won the sweepstakes when I found it. What a total treat.

McCullough also discussed the stellar career of painter John Singer Sargent, and there was one of his paintings in the same room as the angel. Here’s a portrait of another type of angel:

HPIM0339.jpg image by zecainfrance

This was painted to commemorate the model’s wedding; they were both friends of Sargent. I’m sorry it’s so tiny, but it was the best I could do at the time.

Ann and I have a “Regency Hero” game, looking for portraits of men handsome and dashing (and time-appropriate) to be on the cover of a Regency Romance. She was very excited to show me this wonderful portrait of Jean Halford David by Thomas Sully. Jean was a young Frenchman (only 21, and I think this painting was done to celebrate his marriage) who was a lieutenant in the US Army during the war of 1812, and serving as a paymaster.

What Ann pointed out, and I, and my dh agree, is that the model bears a striking resemblence to my own very handsome son. Wow. I wouldn’t have seen it, but now it seems obvious.

Before we made it to the Art Museum, we had made a quick stop at the University Circle United Methodist Church. It’s a wonderful Gothic structure, with an improbable but perfect skylight. The church had been finished in 1927, and I had to get a couple photos of some very art-deco angels, perhaps beginning my angel quest of the afternoon.HPIM0336.jpg image by zecainfrance

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After all this art, we were in need of sustenance, and retired to Presti’s in the Little Italy neighborhood of Cleveland. Wow. It is SO HARD to choose between a square of tiramisu, or a chocolate cannoli, or lemon square, or any of the utterly fabulous offerings they had. Tough decisions were eventually made. A perfect end to a wonderful adventure.

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