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Art and Architecture Descriptions

Central Library

Murals on north side of stairs
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Murals at top of stairs

View the Chavannes Gallery paintings on Flickr

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Description of the Decorative Paintings by Puvis de Chavannes

Having been entrusted with the honour of decorating the staircase of the Boston Library, I have sought to represent under a symbolic form and in a single view the intellectual treasures collected in this beautiful building.The whole seems to me summed up in the composition entitled THE MUSES OF INSPIRATION HAIL THE SPIRIT, THE HARBINGER OF LIGHT.

Out of this composition others have developed which answer to the four great expressions of the human mind: POETRY, PHILOSOPHY, HISTORY, SCIENCE.

On the right-hand wall of the staircase as you enter appear in three panels:

  • Pastoral Poetry. Virgil.
  • Dramatic Poetry. Æschylus and the Oceanides.
  • Epic Poetry. Homer crowned by the Iliad and Odyssey.

On the left-hand wall:

  • History. Attended by a Spirit bearing a torch calls up the Past.
  • Astronomy. The Chaldean Shepherds observe the stars and discover the law of numbers.
  • Philosophy. Plato sums up in an immortal phrase the eternal conflict between Spirit and Matter. "Man is a plant of heavenly not of earthly growth."

On the end wall to the right and left of the windows:

  • To the left: Chemistry (mineral, organic, vegetable): A process of mysterious change evolves itself under the magic wand of a fairy surrounded by watching spirits.
  • To the right: Physics: By the wondrous agency of Electricity, Speech flashes through Space and swift as lightning bears tidings of good and evil.



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