Classics in a Classy House

June 29, 2012 § 4 Comments

Once again a woman on one of my tours last week commented on how odd it was that we have so many replicas of classic statuary throughout the Dana-Thomas House. They seem out of sync with the Frank Lloyd Wright architecture. I explained as I always do that in Susan’s time, a display of those European classics indicated that the home owner was cultured and appreciated fine art. Frank Lloyd Wright himself followed the trend. A replica of “Winged Victory” is prominent in the dining room of his Wisconsin home in a photo published in the October, 1915, Architectural Record.

The comment of the lady on my tour brought back memories of two incidents involving the replicas in the house. I recall the day I was leading a tour into the gallery. As we passed the copy of “Venus de Milo,” a woman said, “Oh dear. Did someone knock this over and break it?” My first thought was that she was kidding, but when I looked at her face, I knew she was serious. Then I looked at the other members of the group, and they were all trying not to smile but obviously wondering what I was going to say. I don’t remember what I said. I just recall trying to keep a straight face and muttering something about an original classic work. It was not one of my finest hours as an interpreter.

The other anecdote involves the small replica of Michelangelo’s “David” which is not very prominent to tour groups. It is visible only if the visitors look over the ledge on the east side of the gallery. Nevertheless, several years ago someone found the frontal view of “David” offensive. Much to my amusement, the decision makers at that time responded and turned his face to the wall. Guests then only got a rear view. Evidently that was also offensive, so “David” now stands au naturel looking at anyone who finds him.

Obviously our sensibilities have changed since the early 1900’s, and luckily the world of advertising has accommodated those changes. Perhaps I should recommend that we try to replicate the two examples below so the statuary in the Dana-Thomas House is more in sync with the culture of our time. On second thought, let’s stick with the classics in a classy house!


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