September 22, Boston

Good morning! Another day of the great S-G quest. I was first distracted by delicious strawberries and tiny blueberries for breakfast, then out we went. Erik is again squiring me about, this time on the subway and the streets of Boston. We certainly earned our dinner for tonight. (More about that later.)

Our first stop was the Trinity Church in Copley Square.

Here’s a view from the front:

P1010731 and of the front altar:P1010725

We were looking for two paintings by S-G, of apostles. We found them, but couldn’t get a good photo of them. They wouldn’t let us go upstairs to try, so this was all I had of one of them. The other wasn’t even good enough to save:

P1010726It’s supposed to be St. Paul.

So then we went outside to one of the more famous S-G statues. It’s the Phillips Brooks Monument, and was not completed prior to S-G’s death.  And is, as far as I know, one of only two depictions of Jesus that S-G did. Here’s the statue:P1010734

It’s not one of my favorites, the subject matter makes me uneasy, and I wonder what S-G was trying to portray with Jesus in the background. Erik thought the swirling robes that so many of the statues have were an attempt to approximate togas. I think he might have a point.

At some point, we cruised by the Boston Public Library and found these two statues. S-G had started them, but they were finished by one of his assistants. They represent art and science. Both figures are female, though all the famous names by the statues belonged to males. Go figure.

P1010736           P1010735

Then we were off to one of the absolute highlights of the trip, the famous Robert Gould Shaw Memorial in Boston Common. Shaw was a white officer of the African-American corps of Union soldiers in the Civil War. Read up on it. S-G worked with Shaw’s family, who wanted his soldiers portrayed, not just Shaw, and then spent 14 years working on the monument. It was worth every minute. Erik sat to the side and looked at his phone messages, while I walked around the monument, sobbing. Here are just a few of the photos I took:

P1010738   P1010740  P1010739

There’s even one I took of the frame for the monument: P1010737

The monument is in a very busy public area, with a bus stop and a place where tourist groups meet up and began their tours. So I think a lot of folks who hadn’t traveled 3,000 miles to see the monument still deeply appreciated it. And of course, the tour groups all spent some time looking at it. And I especially liked the fresh flowers someone had strewn at the base. But I can’t begin to portray the massive size or overwhelming power of the memorial. You’ll just have to see it for yourself.

Immediately after that was another highlight of the tour. Erik took me to the Boston Athenaeum.

It was founded as a library around 1847, and members of the public purchased subscriptions for its use. We asked the receptionist for information about the S-Gs in the building, and were directed downstairs to the Art Department, particularly the Conservator. In the Art Department, Erik soon found one of the treasures:  P1010743 This rather pale bas-relief was of Roger Wolcott, a governor of Massachusetts. The other treasure we sought was a tiny cameo, just over an inch high, that S-G had carved as a young man in France. (His first work as an artist was carving cameos, and he continued to practice the craft to fund his other artistic endeavors.) The receptionist had no clue, and even the Conservator’s intern had no idea. But she finally tracked him down, and when we explained our mission, he responded that he knew exactly where it was, and if we could but wait a minute, he would get it for us. Yes, indeed. So here it is.P1010744It was in a cardboard box, with a cardboard frame around it, and tissue crumpled over the cameo to protect it. It was absolutely perfect, and the intern explained how the carvings were done. We admired the shell colors, the technique, the frame, everything about it. The Conservator, David B. Dearinger,explained the cameo was just too small to be regularly displayed, though he was delighted that someone had come looking for it. He had even written a monograph about it, and gave me a copy of that. And, as a final treat, he told me the Athenaeum had recently acquired a bust of S-G that another sculptor had carved about the time of S-G’s final illness. So that was an unanticipated delight, and here it is: P1010748

Erik and I just floated out of the Athenaeum, totally pleased with ourselves. We decided it was time for lunch. We tried the Union Club, but were rejected because I was wearing blue jeans. It rather felt like being back in the 70s.  I have no idea where we ended up, but it was very good, and I kept being distracted by Tom Brady on the television. Tom Brady and the Patriots are very popular in Boston, and there isn’t nearly the venom (jealously in disguise) that misguided people elsewhere in the universe display towards them. Then we were back on the subway, and off to Harvard and Cambridge. This part of the trip was enjoyable–I loved seeing the buildings and denizens of Harvard, but no luck on the S-G front. One library required us to fill lots of forms, and get a photo ID library card, before we could even ask if they had the drawings we sought. Another checked all eight pieces of his oeuvre that they had, and none of them was on display; it would take a special request and several weeks to procure them. Our final hope was a reduced copy of the Standing Lincoln from Chicago in the Cobb Memorial in Cambridge Commons. Alas, a major renewal project was happening, with fencing surrounding the commons and huge earth-moving machines stalking about. We couldn’t even get close, though I managed to get a photo from a distance. P1010749

The memorial was from the late 1860s, and the Lincoln statue wasn’t finished until the 1890s, so this copy must have been inserted well after the date. I thought it didn’t fit very well with the rest of the memorial, but technically and emotionally, it far surpassed its surroundings. But then, we know my biases here. Erik promised to return here once the work was done and get a proper photo for me. This concludes, alas, the S-G portion of the trip for a while.

Erik’s superpower has to do with transportation. We caught the subway three times, and at no time did we have to wait more than five seconds for our train. He also has the uncanny ability to find the absolutely closest parking space to his destination despite the apparent dearth of any spaces. It’s a handy superpower for Boston.

Our day was not yet done. We were off to dinner at Fairsted Kitchen in nearby Brookline.

Owner/manager Steve Bowman has put together an impressive bar and wine cellar, and paired them with an array of quirky, appealing, and totally satisfying menu items that are served family style, so everyone can share in the bounty. The other party members discussed the options with Steve. I listened, dumbfounded; everything sounded so wonderful that I was ready to start gnawing on the table. I did get a photo of the bar:P1010751

As the dishes began showing up on the table, the genius of the pairings became obvious: of course, the octopus shavings have to be with the lentils; It’s perfect. (I had about four helpings of that one.)  The South American chilis coloring and flavoring the new potatoes was a pre-ordained inevitability. A flamboyant cauliflower dish (is that an oxymoron?–not at all!) had to be photographed:P1010752

You serve yourself on small china plates of no particular pattern, which are frequently changed to prevent any flavor transfers. The staff was helpful and cheerful, and seemed to know just when my wine glass needed to be refilled. We got there early, and the dining room filled up nicely with very happy diners while we were there. Two hours later, we finally staggered out. Even the slice of what looked like a berry pie/cheesecake appealed only aesthetically; I knew there was no way I could have eaten it.  But I was glad Erik and I had logged so many miles on our quest to justify the feast.

So ended my only full day in Boston. It could not possibly have been more satisfying. If this is in indication of how my trip will play out, I am in for some fabulous adventures. Good night!


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