27 February 2012

The Observant Eye, Part 2: A Unique Amalgamate of Everything


Enter William Randolf Hearst, media mogul. Aside from the Hearst Corporation (which is also housed by a fantastic structure on 8th ave), one of Hearst's greatest legacies is his grandiose castle in San Simeon, California which sits atop 270,000 acres of land. Put yourself in his shoes: you are a mega-millionaire and the castle you commissioned has been completed. What's the first thing you do? You furnish it, of course!

Hearst had a great love for art and spent his extravagant fortune collecting art and even restoring various castles in Europe. Over the course of many years, he amassed a vast and diverse collection of artworks. One of the many pieces he collected during his lifetime is the ceiling now displayed at the Met.

Upon his death, the ceiling was found in pieces in the basement of the Hearst castle. Hearst hired a restoration team to correct it and modify it to fit one of the many rooms in the castle. However, after its restoration, the ceiling was never installed. Thus, it remained in pieces in the basement collecting dust. Unfortunate, no?

The Met began to show great interest in the ceiling only several years ago despite the acquisition in the 50s. Experts found a great number of discrepancies in the ceiling upon analysis, thus leading them to conclude that not all of the ceiling was original (which led them to discover Hearst's restoration). The ceiling they acquired was made of two different types of wood, a high quality pine found in Europe and another cheaper wood. The first restoration team ended up adding a good percentage of new material to the ceiling. They used acrylic paint, unlike the original paint from azurite, and much of the new patternwork was asymmetrical and random.

What's so fascinating about this ceiling is the questions it comes with. Are there people in Spain who can build ceilings like these anymore? How much is the ceiling valued at? Why wasn't it installed in the Hearst castle? Where was is supposed to be installed in the castle? Why did Hearst fancy the structure so much? Although many questions that have arisen haven't been able to be answered, it still leaves an air of mystery to the structure. Thus, I strongly urge you to take a trip to the Met and visit it. It really is a masterpiece.

Until nest time,

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