Asian Art

Washington Travel Blog

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monkey chain--23 symbols of how to write "monkey" each in a different Asian language

We took the Metro into the city and came up at the Smithsonian station just before 10 AM which allowed us to time our arrival at the Sackler just as it opened.  Located behind the Castle--the original Smithsonian building--the Sackler is usually accessed by wandering through a small garden named after Enid Haupt (who was nearly 100 when she passed away).  Inside the Sackler the only level above ground has a large floral display in honor of Enid Haupt and the start of the sculpture Monkey Reaching for the Sun.  This link of 23 separate metal symbols stretches down several stories before ending at a small pool.  Each symbol is the word "monkey" written in a different Asian language, very appropriate since the Sackler is a collection of Asian art.

vase

We headed down a flight of steps and then turned left into the permanant exhibit on China's art.  Many of the earlier pieces were bronze, often with intricate designs.  The information panels in each room also gave a simple description of the ruling dynasty at the time of the artifacts.  As we progressed through the time periods, the designs became more distinct and usually even more elaborate (although one of the last rooms had a wardrobe that impressed by its sheer size and the time it took to apply layers of lacquer rather than a design).  I found the natural scenes on a folding screen amazingly beautiful.

We finished our time at the Sackler (we only had about 40 minutes to wander through the museum) with a walk through an exhibit from Georgia, the country not the state.  On display were dozens of artifacts discovered on archeological digs in the area (beginning in the 1960's and continuing through to today) where the legends of Jason and the Golden Fleece occurred (which was a geography lesson for me; I had also stuck Georgia farther north in my mind).  I was amazed by their beauty.  There were a few pieces of jewelry that I would want to wear even.  Two gold diadems appeared to be floating in the middle of one display case thanks to some careful arranging.  A lot of golden appliques in the shape of roses or birds were also eyecatching.

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flags around the base

About 15 years ago, my family viewed an exhibit on artifacts from the Vatican at the Library of Congress.  Since then, the facility has undergone major renovation and restoration (some of which is still in progress), so my parents wanted to visit the place again.  We had a short wait to enter through security and then hopped on a guided tour that was just beginning.

The Library is a gorgeous building with detailed paintings on the ceilings, mosaics on the floors, and sculpture along the stairwells with symbolism behind each one.  Our tour guide Tony knew the significance of each decoration.  He also knew the history of the building (and the other two buildings that house the collection).  The first major benefactor of the library was Thomas Jefferson who sold his personal library to restore the collection after the British burned the library during their invasion of Washington DC in the War of 1812.

  As more and more books were added to the library, the current facility was built, originally with four courtyards, three of which have been filled in over the years to accomodate the ever-growing collection (which contrary to popular opinion, does not contain a copy of every book printed).

One of our first stops on the tour was to view a copy of the Gutenberg Bible.  50 copies were printed on vellum of which only 3 perfect copies still exist, and one of those copies is on display in the main floor of the Library of Congress.  It is in its own case, but its case is simple and if you didn't stop to read its title, you would have no idea that its contents predate the western European discovery of the Americas.

As we stood in front of the a set of emergency exits from a reading room, Tony explained how the pictures in the lunettes above the doors detailed the idea that through knowledge citizens were able to play a responsible role in the governance of their state.

  He then went on to discuss the current security measures in place to protect the books of the library since it is no longer possible to enter a reading room without a pass.  However, anyone can procur a pass to do research within the library by filling out a short application.  This formality along with other restrictions in place with the hope of preventing repeats of stories such as the man that used dental floss to silently remove pages from books or the former employee who received a call at work one day from his landlord; seems his floor had collapsed under the weight of several thousand books lifted from the library.  The story has a "happy" ending though; Tony stated that the man has lots of time to read now...

We headed back out to the Great Hall where we stood approximately in the center as Tony explained more of the design.

  On the floor was a brass sun with the four compass points around to symbolize how knowledge is a compass.  The zodiac signs around the middle design indicated that the knowledge to be found in the library was for everyone.  The theme of everyone was continued by the two pairs of two children flanking globes on the two stairwells; each child stood for a different major people group: European, African, Asian, and Native American.  Each stairwell also hosted a gathering of sculptures of toddlers engaged in activities that hinted to their future professions including gardener, pharmacist, hunter, scholar, entomologist, electrician, and musician.

Once upstairs the marble staircases, we began with the North Corridor.  Here the ceiling paintings represent the five senses, beginning with touch and ending with taste (according to the direction we went).

  We also had a chance to view the Capitol building from inside the Library, a slightly rare perspective.

The West Corridor's prominant paintings were just below ceiling level and focused on the sciences.  Lovely women depicted a variety of such fields including archeology, botany, and physics.

Tony enjoyed pointing out the Southern Corridor's homage to two popular American sports.  At either end on the ceiling is a rectangular painting, one depicting men engaged in baseball, the other focused on football.  The other main paintings appear above the doors above the entrance to the Treasures of America (under renovations until the spring).  These paintings are of the four seasons.

The Eastern Corridor had another stairwell which led up to the Visitors' Gallery which looked down on the Main Reading Room.

  The landing of this stairwell had a large mosaic of Minerva, the Roman name of Athena, the goddess of war and knowledge.  She holds a scroll on which is written the fields of knowledge.  Although her armor is laid aside, at the bottom of the list the presence of topics such as military history remind viewers that if threatened, she will rise to the defense.  The mosaic glittered even in its darker alcove.

Inside the Visitors' Gallery (NO PHOTOS!! said the guard), we were in awe of the domed ceiling with its circular mural depicting 11 civilizations important to the development of Western (especially American) culture beginning with Egypt continuing through Greek and Middle Ages before culminating in France and America.  The next circular pattern is composed of eight female figures representing ideas such as Religion, Commerce, Art, Law, and Science.

  Each women is flanked by two men who are considered leaders in those fields (for example, Moses and St. Paul for Religion).  Since these statues are located one level below the women, each trio forms a triangle.  Tony explained that the symbolism continued down to floor level where the researchers in the Reading room were creating new understanding and knowledge based upon that discovered throughout the ages.

Our formal tour ended at this point.  We wandered into the Early Americas exhibit for a little bit but could feel the day starting to get to us, so we skipped the second half.  On our way out, we noticed the sign for the Bob Hope display.  Tucked away at the end of a hallway, this small exhibit highlights this performer's career.

Athena
  We found it quite interesting and even energizing.

picture of the roof of the reading room (no photos allowed inside the actual room)

The Organization of American States has two art museums open to the public.  We visited the smaller museum on the back of the property since that one was open on Saturday.  My mom suggested the visit especially once I looked it up on-line and found that it had a temporary exhibit on toys from Mexico on display.

I had thought about visiting this place before and after we had signed in, I found myself wondering why I hadn't stopped by before.  The toys filling four rooms were very engaging and colorful.  While most of them had a Mexican flavor to them, they still came in a huge variety: dolls, planes, wagons, games, accessories.  Large bilingual books in the rooms gave background information about the tradition of toys and games in Mexican culture.

A tiled loggia connected the first floor rooms.  The dominant blue color and guitar music created a calming atmosphere while the pre-Conquest design near the ceiling gave the room a sense of antiquity.  Most of the room was still in a Christmas theme with a small Nativity scene and poinsettias.  I loved the hanging pinatas.

I also found the interactive rooms designed for children marvelous.  The huge doll in the first of these rooms was definitely worthy of a wow.

My dad had gotten tickets for the three of us to go to the top of the Washington Monument at 11.  The line to get in moved fairly quickly (yay! since this was the coldest and windiest part of the day) even with a security check.  Although crowded the elevator moved quickly to a height of 500 feet.  The view from the top was amazing; with the clear skies we had visibility for 30 miles.  We were able to spend some time at windows looking in each direction, beginning with a view of the Mall and the Capitol Building.  We were able to pick out many famous sights ranging from the White House to the National Cathedral to the Holocaust Museum to the Pentagon.  I noticed a red light above each window.  Once the light blinked, I realized its purpose was to warn aircraft of the monument.  After we had our fill of this unique perspective of the city, we headed down one flight of steps to the 490 foot level where we browsed a small display area that outlined the history of the monument.  On the elevator ride back down, the walls of the elevator cleared, and we could look at the plaques that lined the inside of the monument from states, cities, and organizations from all over the nation to honor George Washington.
FishAtHeart says:
Isn't the view spectacular from the Washington Monument?! We were there summer of 2006 with our son, daughter-in-law, and two graddaughters, only we went in July! It was so hot, but the night tour of all the places was wonderful! We did the Smithsonian by day (air conditioning) and outside sights by evening. Our 6 year old granddaughter said the Washington Monument was the best!
Posted on: Feb 18, 2008
monkey chain--23 symbols of how to…
monkey chain--23 symbols of how t…
vase
vase
flags around the base
flags around the base
Athena
Athena
picture of the roof of the reading…
picture of the roof of the readin…
Enid Haupt garden
Enid Haupt garden
more garden
more garden
the back of the Castle
the back of the Castle
monkey in one Asian language
"monkey" in one Asian language
bells
bells
horse
horse
chair with stylized word for joy…
chair with stylized word for "joy…
lacquered wardrobe
lacquered wardrobe
the Washington Monument
the Washington Monument
National Cathedral from the monume…
National Cathedral from the monum…
White House from the monument
White House from the monument
Jefferson Memorial from the monume…
Jefferson Memorial from the monum…
Capitol building from the monument
Capitol building from the monument
the Freer, the Castle, the Hirscho…
the Freer, the Castle, the Hirsch…
Old Postal Building from the monum…
Old Postal Building from the monu…
display inside at 490 feet
display inside at 490 feet
front of the AMA
front of the AMA
little mariachis
little mariachis
aviones
aviones
cornhusk dolls
cornhusk dolls
a size comparison
a size comparison
play room
play room
Navidad decorations
Navidad decorations
more Navidad
more Navidad
Nativity scene
Nativity scene
pinata
pinata
canicas=marbles
canicas=marbles
dominoes
dominoes
calacas
calacas
La Catrina
La Catrina
Capitol Building front
Capitol Building front
just outside the Library
just outside the Library
skylight over the Great Hall
skylight over the Great Hall
outdoor architecture of the Library
outdoor architecture of the Library
representation of Athenas dual ro…
representation of Athena's dual r…
first in a series of murals depict…
first in a series of murals depic…
Capitol from the second floor of t…
Capitol from the second floor of …
one of the Senses
one of the Senses
floor inlay
floor inlay
publishers mark
publisher's mark
my Zodiac sign on the floor on the…
my Zodiac sign on the floor on th…
the scholar
the scholar
from the Early Americas display
from the Early Americas display
in the Early Americas display, let…
in the Early Americas display, le…
honorary Oscar given to Bob Hope
honorary Oscar given to Bob Hope
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