Second Bank of the United States Building (Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, U.S.A.) 

Second Bank of the United States Building

The Second Bank of the United States, the second federally authorized Hamiltonian national bank in the United States during its 20-year charter (February 1816 to January 1836), was modeled on Alexander Hamilton‘s First Bank of the United States and was chartered by President James Madison in 1816.

National Historic Site Plaque

The Second Bank of the United States was designed by architect William Strickland (1788–1854), a former student of Benjamin Latrobe (1764–1820), the man who is often called the first professionally trained American architect.

Portrait Gallery in the Second Bank of the United States

Like Latrobe, Strickland was a disciple of the stylistic Greek Revival style, designing this building (in essence based on the Parthenon in Athens, Greece) as well as other American public buildings in this style, including financial structures such as the New OrleansDahlonegaMechanics National Bank (also in Philadelphia) and Charlotte branch mints in the mid-to-late 1830s, as well as the second building for the main U.S. Mint in Philadelphia in 1833.

The hallmarks of this  significant early and monumental example of Greek Revival architecture can be seen immediately in the north and south façades, which use a large set of steps leading up to the stylobate, the main level platform, on top of which Strickland placed 8 severe Doric columns, which are crowned by an entablature containing a triglyph frieze and simple triangular pediment.

In the center of the north façade is an entrance hallway, leading into two central rooms one after the other (spanning the width of the structure east to west), flanked by two rooms on either side. The east and west sides of the first large room are each pierced by large arched fan window.

Carved Pine Statue of George Washington (William Rush, 1814)

Built from 1819 to 1824, Pennsylvania blue marble was used in the building’s exterior.  Due to the manner in which it was cut, the weak parts of the marble has begun to deteriorate from the exposure to the elements, most visible on the Doric columns of the south façade.

Tayendanegea – Joseph Brant (Charles Wilson Peale, Oil on Canvas, 1797)

The bank began operations at its main branch in Philadelphia on January 7, 1817, managing 25 branch offices nationwide by 1832. After the bank closed in 1841, the building changed hands and function.  It eventually became the Custom House in Philadelphia resulting in some changes to the interior and exterior of the building.

John Witherspoon (Charles Wilson Peale, Oil on Canvas, 1783-1784)

Except for the barrel vaulted ceiling, the marble columns in the main banking room and the side flue fireplaces, little remains of the building’s original interior design.  Still, for its architectural and historic significance, the building was designated as a National Historic Landmark in 1987.

Marquis De Lafayette (Thomas Sully, 1825-1826)

The edifice, now part of Independence National Historical Park in Philadelphia, houses the Portrait Gallery, an art gallery housing the large, permanent “People of Independence” exhibit, a collection of over 150 portraits of prominent 18th and 19th century political leaders, military officers, explorers and scientists, all worthy Personages” who, according to noted artist Charles Willson Peale (his more than 100 portraits form the core of the collection), exhibited the republican virtues of public-spiritedness, self-sacrifice, and civic virtue.

George Washington (Rembrandt Peale, Oil on Canvas, 1848)

These portraits, as well as other works by his son Rembrandt and his brother James, were once exhibited in Peale’s Philadelphia Museum, located on the second floor of Independence Hall. Peale died in 1828 and his museum was struggling financially.

Bust of Benjamin Franklin

In 1848, at auction, the City of Philadelphia purchased 86 of Peale’s portraits. Through the years, additional portraits have been added to the collection including a number by British pastel artists James and Ellen Sharples.

James Peale

Second Bank of the United States: Chestnut Street, between 4th and 5th Streets, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, U.S.A.  Admission is free.  Through September 3, 2018, open daily 11 AM – 5 PM; September 4 – 30, 2018, open Wednesday – Sunday, 11 AM – 5 PM; October 1 – December 31, 2018, open Saturday – Sunday, 11 AM – 5 PM.

Philadelphia Museum of Art (Pennsylvania, USA)

Philadelphia Museum of Art

This art museum, originally chartered in 1876 for the Centennial Exposition in Philadelphia, has impressive collections containing over 240,000 objects in over 200 galleries spanning 2,000 years. It includes major holdings of European, American and Asian origin, showing the creative achievements of the Western world since the first century BC and those of Asia since the third millennium AD.

The various classes of artwork include sculpture; paintings; prints; drawings; photographs;, arms and armor; and decorative arts.

The author

Standouts include a great Rogier van der Weyden altarpiece, the large The Bathers by Paul Cezanne, a room devoted to Philadelphia’s own realist painter Thomas Eakins, and the notorious mixed-media Bride Stripped Bare by her Bachelors (most often called The Large Glass), exactly as the Dada master Marcel Duchamp installed it.

Prometheus Strangling the Vulture (Bronze, Jacques Lipchitz, cast 1952-53)

Upstairs are over 80 period rooms, from a Medieval cloister to an Indian temple.  In recent years, the museum has helped to organize shows,  from Paul Cezanne and Edgar Degas to Constantin Brancusi and Barnett Newman.

Jandy in front of a choir screen from the chapel of the chateau of Pagny

The main museum building, on Fairmount, a rocky hill topped by the city’s main reservoir located at the northwest end of the Benjamin Franklin Parkway (formerly Fairmount Parkway) at Eakins Oval, was completed in 1928.

Entrance Lobby

The museum administers several annexes including the Rodin Museum, also located on the Benjamin Franklin Parkway, and the Ruth and Raymond G. Perelman Building (opened in 2007), which is located across the street just north of the main building.

Botanist Take a Core Sample of a 350 year old Redwood Tree, Redwood National Park, California (2008)

Bright Angel Point, Grand Canyon National Park, Arizona (2008)

The main museum building and its annexes, owned by the City of Philadelphia, are administered by a registered nonprofit corporation.

Allegory of the Schuykill River – Water Nymph and Bittern (William Rush)

La Premiere Pose (Howard Roberts)

The Philadelphia Museum of Art also administers the historic colonial-era houses of Mount Pleasant and Cedar Grove, both located in Fairmount Park.

Dying Centaur (Bronze, William Rimmer, 1967)

Mother and Child II (Bronze, Jacques Lipchitz, 1941)

Every year, several special exhibitions are held in the museum including touring exhibitions arranged with other museums in the United States and abroad.

The Birth of Venus (Nicolas Poussin)

Head of a Woman and Flowers (Oil on canvas, Gustave Courbet, 1871)

The final design of the main building, in the form of three linked Greek temples, is mostly credited to two architects in the architectural firms of Horace Trumbauer and Zantzinger, Borie and Medary – Howell Lewis Shay for the building’s plan and massing, and chief designer Julian Abele for the detail work and perspective drawings.

Virgin and Child in a Landscape (Oil on panel, 1500)

Still Life with a Tortoise (Oil on canvas, possibly by Thomas Black, 1743)

Abele, the first African-American student to graduate (in 1902) from the University of Pennsylvania‘s Department of Architecture (now known as Penn’s School of Designadapted Classical Greek temple columns for the design of the museum entrances, and was responsible for the colors of both the building stone and the figures added to one of the pediments.

Western Civilization (1933, Paul Jennewein, colored by Leon V. Solon)

In 1919, construction of the main building began when Mayor Thomas B. Smith laid the cornerstone in a Masonic ceremony. The building was constructed with dolomite quarried in Minnesota. Because of shortages caused by World War I and other delays, the new building was not completed until 1928.

Interior.  At the top of the stairs is a statue of Diana (Gilded copper sheets, Augustus Saint Gaudens, 1892-93)

To help assure the continued funding for the completion of the design, the wings were intentionally built first and, once the building’s exterior was completed, 20 second-floor galleries containing English and American art opened to the public on March 26, 1928, though a large amount of interior work was incomplete. The building is also adorned by a collection of bronze griffins, which were adopted as the symbol of the museum in the 1970s.

Apollo (Terra cotta model cast in bronze after 1715, Francois Girardon)

Statue of Summer as Ceres (Jacques-Augustin Pajou)

Here are some interesting trivia regarding this museum:

  • In 2016, 775,043 people visited the museum, ranking it among the top one hundred most-visited art museums in the world.
  • Based on gallery space, the museum is also one of the largest art museums in the world.
  • It is the third-largest art museum in the country.
  • The building’s eight pediments were intended to be adorned with sculpture groups but one, “Western Civilization” (1933) by  Paul Jennewein, and colored by Leon V. Solon, has been completed. This sculpture group, awarded the Medal of Honor of the Architectural League of New York, features polychrome sculptures of painted terra-cotta figures, depicting Greek deities and mythological figures.
  • Due to a partnership, enacted early in the museum’s history, between the museum and the University of Pennsylvania,  the museum does not have any galleries devoted to EgyptianRoman, or Pre-Columbian art. The university loaned the museum its collection of Chinese porcelain, and the museum loaned a majority of its Roman, Pre-Columbian, and Egyptian pieces to the university. However, the museum still retains a few important pieces for special exhibitions.
  • In recent decades, the Philadelphia Museum of Art has become known due to the role it played in the Rocky films—Rocky (1976) and five of its six sequels, IIIIIVRocky Balboa and Creed. Rocky Balboa‘s (portrayed by Sylvester Stallone) famous run up the 72 steps of the east entrance stairs (informally nicknamed the Rocky Steps) is often mimicked by  visitors to the museum.  The museum’s stairs has been named by Screen Junkies as the second most famous movie location behind only Grand Central Station in New York.
  • For the filming of Rocky III, a 2.6 m. (8.5 ft.) tall bronze statue of the Rocky Balboa character, created in 1980, was placed at the top of the museum’s front stairs in 1982 (and again for the film Rocky V). After filming was complete, Stallone donated the statue to the city of Philadelphia. In 2006, the statue was relocated, from the now-defunct Spectrum sports arena, to a new display area on the north side of the base of the stairs.

Jandy and the author in front of the bronze statue of the Rock Balboa character

Here’s a historical timeline of the museum’s collections:

  • Its permanent collection began with objects from the 1876 Centennial Exposition (America’s first World’s Fair) and gifts from the public impressed with the exhibition’s ideals of good design and craftsmanship.
  • After the Pennsylvania Museum and School of Industrial Art was opened on May 10, 1877, European and Japanese fine and decorative art objects and books for the museum’s library were among the first donations.
  • Starting in 1882, Clara Jessup Moore donated a remarkable collection of antique furniture, enamels, carved ivory, jewelry, metalwork, glass, ceramics, books, textiles and paintings.
  • In 1893 Anna H. Wilstach bequeathed a large painting collection, including many American paintings, and an endowment of US$500 million for additional purchases.
  • Within a few years, works by James Abbott McNeill Whistler and George Inness were purchased
  • In 1894, the Countess de Brazza’s lace collection was acquired, forming the nucleus of the lace collection.
  • In 1899,Henry Ossawa Tanner‘s The Annunciation was bought.
  • In 1942, E. Gallatin accepted an offer from the Philadelphia Museum of Art to provide a home for his collection. Within a few months 175 works from his collection were moved to Philadelphia.
  • In 1945, the estate of George Grey Barnard sold his second collection to the Philadelphia Museum of Art.
  • On December 27, 1950, after protracted discussions and many visits from Director Fiske Kimball and his wife Marie, Louise and Walter Arensberg presented their collection of over 1000 objects to the Philadelphia Museum of Art.
  • Shortly after her 1956 wedding to Prince Rainier of Monaco, Philadelphian Grace Kelly donated her wedding dress to the museum.
  • Extensive renovation of the building lasted from the 1960s through 1976. Major acquisitions included the Carroll S. Tyson, Jr. and Samuel S. White III and Vera White collections, 71 objects from designer Elsa Schiaparelli, and Marcel Duchamp‘s Étant donnés.
  • In 1980, the museum acquired After the Bath by Edgar Degas.
  • In 1986, the art collection of John D. McIlhenny was bequeathed to museum. It includes masterpieces such as Ingres’s ”Comtesse de Tournon,” Delacroix’s 1844 version of ”The Death of Sardanapalus,” Degas’s ”Interior” of 1888-89,” Mary Cassatt at the Louvre” and ”Woman Drying Herself,” Cezanne’s portrait of his wife, van Gogh’s ”Rain,” Seurat’s ”Trombone Player: Study for ‘La Parade,” Toulouse-Lautrec’s ”At the Moulin Rouge” and Matisse’s ”Still Life on Table – The Pineapple” (1925)
  • In 1989, the museum acquired Fifty Days at Iliam by Cy Twombly.

Death of Sardanapalus (Oil on canvas, Eugene Delacroix, 1844)

Making a Train (Oil on canvas, Seymour Joseph Guy, 1867)

The Asian collection is highlighted by paintings and sculpture from China, Japan and India; furniture and decorative arts (including major collections of Chinese, Japanese and Korean ceramics); a large and distinguished group of Persian and Turkish carpets; and rare and authentic architectural assemblages such as a Chinese palace hall, a Japanese teahouse, and a 16th-century Indian temple hall.

The Bride of Lammermoor (Oil on panel, Sir Edwin Landseer, 1830)

Basket of Fruit (Oil on canvas, Edouard Manet, 1864)

Dating from the medieval era to the present, the European collection encompasses Italian and Flemish early-Renaissance masterworks; strong representations of later European paintings (including French Impressionism and Post-Impressionism); sculpture (with a special concentration in the works of Auguste Rodin); decorative arts; tapestries; furniture; and period rooms and architectural settings ranging from the facade of a medieval church in Burgundy to a superbly decorated English drawing room by Robert Adam.

Arms and Armor.  At center is the Portrait of a Nobleman with Duelling Gauntlet (1562)

The comprehensive arms and armor collection, the second-largest collection in the United States, was acquired from celebrated collector Carl Otto Kretzschmar von Kienbusch in 1976, the Bicentennial Anniversary of the American Revolution.  Spanning several centuries, it includes European and Southwest Asian arms and armor.

The Angel of Purity – Maria Mitchell Memorial (Marble, Augustus Saint-Gaudens, 1902)

Diana (marble, 1826, Joseph Gott)

The American collection, among the finest in the United States, surveys more than three centuries of painting, sculpture, and decorative arts, with outstanding strengths in 18th- and 19th-century Philadelphia furniture and silver, Pennsylvania German art, rural Pennsylvania furniture and ceramics, and the paintings of Thomas Eakins (the museum houses the most important Eakins collection in the world).

Sketches of Thomas Eakins

Portrait of Hayes Agnew – Agnew Clinic (Oil on canvas, Thomas Eakins, 1889)

Modern artwork includes works by American Modernists as well as those of Pablo PicassoJean MetzingerAntonio RottaAlbert GleizesMarcel DuchampSalvador Dalí and Constantin Brâncuși. The expanding collection of contemporary art includes major works by Cy TwomblyJasper Johns, and Sol LeWitt, among many others.

The Seesaw (Oil on canvas, Francisco Goya, 1791-92)

Venus and Adonis (Oil on canvas, Charles-Joseph Natoire, 1740)

The museum also houses an encyclopedic holding of costume and textiles, as well as prints, drawings, and photographs. For reasons of preservation, they are displayed in rotation.

Equestrian statue of George Washington on Eakins Oval

In the square in front of the museum is an equestrian statue of George Washington erected by the German sculptor Rudolf Siemering.

The Lion Fighter (1858, Carl Conrad Albert Wolff)

The grandiose flight of steps behind him are flanked on the left The Lion Fighter, by Carl Conrad Albert Wolff, and on the right is The Amazon Attacked by a Panther by August Kiss, both casts from the Rauch School.

Mounted Amazon Attacked by a Panther (August Kiss, 1839, cast 1929)

The one-acre, terraced Anne d’Harnoncourt Sculpture Garden, dedicated to the museum’s late director Anne d’Harnoncourt (1943–2008) and designed by OLIN landscape architects working with Atkin Olshin Schade Architects, extends the Museum’s vast galleries to the outdoors while strengthening its connections to the city of Philadelphia and Fairmount Park.

Social Consciousness (Jacob Epstein)

The garden is divided into five sections: the Upper Terrace, the Lower Terrace, two graveled galleries and a paved plaza. Works here include the iconic Giant Three-Way Plug (Cube Tap) of Claes Oldenburg which was presented to the museum by Geraldine and David N. Pincus; Flukes, the large-scale sculpture of a whale’s tail by Gordon Gund; Steps (Philadelphia) and Pyramid (Philadelphia), two concrete block sculptures by Sol LeWitt; a granite bench and table as well as a marble chair by Scott Burton; Steel Woman II by Thomas Schütte; and Curve I, a remarkable work, from 1973, made of weathering steel by Ellsworth Kelly.

Giant 3-Way Plug – Cube Tap (Claes Oldenburg)

Philadelphia Museum of Art: 2600 Benjamin Franklin ParkwayPhiladelphia, Pennsylvania 19130, USA. Tel: (215) 763-8100 Website: Open Tuesdays- Sundays, 10 AM – 5 PM. Admission: US$20/adult, children below 12 years old is free.

30th Street Station (Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, U.S.A.)

30th Street Station

The 52,000 m² (562,000 ft²) 30th Street Station, the main railroad station in Philadelphia and one of the seven stations in Southeastern Pennsylvania Transportation Authority‘s (SEPTA) Center City fare zone, sits across from the former United States Post Office-Main Branch. A major stop on Amtrak‘s (National Railroad Passenger Corporation) Northeast and Keystone Corridors, it is Amtrak’s 3rd-busiest station and the busiest of the 24 stations served in Pennsylvania. On an average day in 2013, about 11,300 people boarded or left trains in Philadelphia, nearly twice as many as in the rest of the Pennsylvania stations combined. This was to be our entry point to Philadelphia (from New York City) and exit point from Philadelphia to Baltimore (Maryland).

The main concourse

Originally known as the Pennsylvania Station–30th Street (in accord with the naming style of other Pennsylvania Stations), the enormous, steel-framed structure was designed by the Chicago architectural firm of Graham, Anderson, Probst and White (the successor to D.H. Burnham & Company). Construction began in 1927 and the station opened in 1933, starting with two platform tracks.

The author and son Jandy at the waiting area

From 1988-1991, the building was restored and renovated, at a cost of US$75 million,  by Dan Peter Kopple & Associates, with updated retail amenities added including several shops, a large food court, car rental facilities, Saxby’s CoffeeDunkin’ Donuts, both in the South Arcade and South Concourse, and others.

Dunkin’ Donut outlet

Above the passenger areas, 280,000 sq. ft. of office space was modernized to house approximately 1,100 Amtrak employees.  The former mail handling facility was converted into an underground parking garage. The 30th Street Station is now listed on the National Register of Historic Places.

Train Schedule Display Board

The building’s architecturally interesting exterior, an adaptation and transformation of Neo-Classical elements into a more modern, streamlined Art Deco architectural style, has a pair of soaring, columned porte-cocheres on the west and east façade, its best known features.

Waiting Area

The cavernous, 290 by 135 ft. main passenger concourse, notable for its stylistic and functional elements, has ornate Art Deco décor, with a vast waiting room faced with travertine and a soaring  coffered ceiling, painted gold, red and cream, with beautiful chandeliers.

Ticket offices

Works of art are located throughout the building. Prominently displayed within the waiting area is the Pennsylvania Railroad World War II Memorial, sculpted in 1950 by Walker Hancock. Honoring 1,307 Pennsylvania Railroad employees (listed in alphabetical order on the four sides of the base of that sculpture) killed in World War II (out of the more than 54,000 who served), it consists of a bronze statue of the archangel Michael lifting the body of a dead soldier out of the flames of war.

Pennsylvania Railroad World War II Memorial

The Spirit of Transportation, a bas relief sculpture of Karl Bitter, was executed in 1895 and originally placed in the waiting room of Broad Street Station, Philadelphia. On January, 1955, it was moved to current site in the North Waiting Room. The Spirit of Transportation is represented in triumphal procession of progress. It features a central female figure sitting in a horse-drawn carriage, while children cradle models of a steamship, steam locomotive and dirigible, a prophetic vision of a mode of transportation to come.

Spirit of Transportation bas-relief sculpture

The station was featured in the 1981 film Blow Out, the 1983 film Trading Places, the 1985 film Witness, the 2000 film Unbreakable, the 2010 video game Heavy RainAgents of S.H.I.E.L.D. Season 2 Episode 7, and the 2015 film The Visit. It is within walking distance of various attractions in West Philadelphia, notably the University of PennsylvaniaDrexel University, and the University City Science Center, all in University City. 

Kyle, Grace, Cheska and Jandy waiting for our train to Baltimore at the train platform

30th Street Station: 2955 Market Street, PhiladelphiaPennsylvaniaUnited States

Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum (New York City, U.S.A.)

Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum

The Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum, often referred to as The Guggenheim, is the permanent home, of a continuously expanding collection of Impressionist, early Modern and contemporary art and also features special exhibitions throughout the year.

Museum Lobby

Overlooking Central Park, the site’s proximity to the park afforded relief from the noise, congestion and concrete of the city and nature also provided the museum with inspiration.  In 2013, nearly 1.2 million people visited the museum, and it hosted the most popular exhibition in New York City.


Established in 1939 by the Solomon R. Guggenheim Foundation  (established in 1937, it fosters the appreciation of modern art) as the Museum of Non-Objective Painting.  The museum adopted its current name in 1952, after the death of its founder.

The skylight

In 1959, the museum moved, from rented space, to its current Modernist, distinctively cylindrical building, a landmark work of 20th-century architecture designed by Frank Lloyd Wright who experimented with his organic style in an urban setting.

It took him 15 years, 700 sketches, and six sets of working drawings to create the museum. The museum underwent extensive expansion and renovations in 1992 (when an adjoining tower was built) and from 2005 to 2008.

Three sculptures by Edgar Degas

Three sculptures by Constantin Brancusi

The building was conceived, by Rebay, as a “temple of the spirit” that would facilitate a new way of looking at the modern pieces in the collection.

The Studio (1928,oil and black crayon on canvas, Pablo Picasso)

Accordionist (1911, oil on canvas, Pablo Picasso)

Woman With Yellow Hair (1931, oil on canvas, Pablo Picasso)

The only museum designed by Wright and his last major work (he died six months before its opening on October 21, 1959), the appearance of the building, viewed from the street, is in sharp contrast to the typically rectangular Manhattan buildings that surround it (a fact relished by Wright).

Bend in the Road Through the Forest (Paul Cezanne)

Still Life Plate of Peaches (Paul Cezanne)

Still Life Flask, Glass and Jug (Paul Cezanne)

It looks like a white ribbon curled into a cylindrical stack, wider at the top than the bottom, and displaying nearly all curved surfaces.

Circumcision (oil on canvas, 1946, Jackson Pollock)

Plate from Poor Richard suite (1971, Philip Guston)

Internally, Wright’s plan for the viewing gallery was for the museum guests to ride to the top of the building by elevator, to descend, at a leisurely pace, along the gentle slope of the unique, continuous helical ramp gallery, extending up from ground level in a long, continuous spiral (recalling a nautilus shell) along the outer edges of the building and ending just under the ceiling skylight at the top.

The Antipope (December 1941–March 1942, Max Ernst)

Polyphonic (1945 Oil on canvas, Perle Fine)

The atrium of the building was to be viewed as the last work of art. The open rotunda afforded viewers the unique possibility of simultaneously seeing several bays of work on different levels and even to interact with guests on other levels.

Black Lines (Vassily Kandinsky)

Striped (1934, oil with sand on canvas, Vassily Kandinsky)

Wright’s spiral design, embracing nature, with continuous spaces flowing freely one into another, also expresses his take on Modernist architecture’s rigid geometry.

Dining Room on the Garden (1934-35, oil on canvas, Pierre Bonnard)

Invention (Composition No. 3) – 1933,oil on canvas, Rudolf Bauer

To reduce the cost, the building’s surface was made out of concrete, inferior to the stone finish, with a red-colored exterior, that Wright had wanted and which was never realized.

Men in the City (1919, oil on canvas, Fernand Leger)

The Smokers (1911-12, oil on canvas, Fernand Leger)

Also largely for financial reasons, Wright’s original plan for an adjoining tower, artists’ studios and apartments also went unrealized until the renovation and expansion.

Eiffel Tower (1911, oil on canvas, Robert Delaunay)

Portrait of Countess Albazzi, (1880, Pastel on primed canvas, Edouard Manet)

Wright’s carefully articulated lighting effects for the main gallery skylight had been compromised when it was covered during the original construction but, in 1992, was restored to its original design.

In the Vanilla Grove, Man and Horse (Paul Gaugin)

The Kiss (1927, Max Ernst)

The “Monitor Building” (as Wright called it), the small rotunda next to the large rotunda, was intended to house apartments for Rebay and Guggenheim but, instead, became offices and storage space. In 1965, the second floor of the Monitor building was renovated to display the museum’s growing permanent collection.

Nude Model in the Studio (1912-13, oil on burlap, Fernand Leger)

With the 1990–92 restoration of the museum, it was turned over entirely to exhibition space and christened the Thannhauser Building, in honor of art dealer Justin K. Thannhauser, one of the most important bequests to the museum. Much of the interior of the building was restored during the 1992 renovation.

Orphism (Robert Delauney)

Also in 1992, a new, adjoining rectangular 10-storey limestone tower, taller than the original spiral and designed by the architectural firm of Gwathmey Siegel & Associates Architects, expanded the exhibition space with the addition of four additional exhibition galleries with flat walls.

Knight Errant (1916, oil on canvas, Oskar Kokoschka)

Yellow Bar (Rolph Scarlett)

Between September 2005 and July 2008, the museum underwent a significant exterior restoration to repair cracks and modernize systems and exterior details. It was completed on September 22, 2008.  On October 6, 2008, the museum was registered as a National Historic Landmark.

Improvisation 28 (second version) – Vassily Kandinsky

In 2001, the museum opened the 8,200 sq. ft. (760 m2) Sackler Center for Arts Education (a gift of the Mortimer D. Sackler family), a facility located on the lower level of the museum, below the large rotunda.

Woman with Parakeet (1871, oil on canvas, Pierre-Auguste Renoir)

Listening (1920, oil on canvas, Heinrich Campendonk)

It provides classes and lectures about the visual and performing arts and opportunities to interact with the museum’s collections and special exhibitions through its labs, exhibition spaces, conference rooms and 266-seat Peter B. Lewis Theater.

Paris Through the Window (1913, oil on canvas, Marc Chagall)

The Flying Carriage (1913, oil on canvas, Marc Chagall)

The Soldier Drinks (1911-12, oil on canvas, Marc Chagall)

Beginning with Solomon R. Guggenheim‘s original collection works of the old masters since the 1890s, the museum’s collection (shared with the museum’s sister museums in Bilbao, Spain, and elsewhere) has grown organically, over eight decades. It is founded upon several important private collections. Here’s a chronology of the museum’s acquisitions:

Personage (1925, oil on canvas, Juan Miro)

  • In 1948, the collection was greatly expanded through the purchase of art dealer Karl Nierendorf’s estate of some 730 objects, notably German expressionist.

Mountains at Saint Remy (1889, oil on canvas, Vincent Van Gogh)

Landscape with Snow (1888, oil on canvas, Vincent Van Gogh)

Before the Mirror (1876, oil on canvas, Edouard Manet)

Arc of Petals (Alexander Calder)

Adam and Eve (Constantin Brancusi)

Little French Girl (Constantin Brancusi)

On Brooklyn Bridge (1917, oil on canvas, Albert Gleizes)

Woman with Animals (1914, oil on canvas, Albert Gleizes)

  • In 1992, the Robert Mapplethorpe Foundation donated 200 of Mapplethorpe’s best photographs to the foundation, an acquisition that initiated the foundation’s photography exhibition program.  Spanning his entire output, it includes early collages, Polaroids, portraits of celebrities, self-portraits, male and female nudes, flowers and statues, mixed-media constructions and included his well-known 1998 Self-Portrait.

  • In 2001, a large collection of the Bohen Foundation was gifted to the foundation. It consists of commissioned works of art (Pierre Huyghe, Sophie Calle, etc.), with an emphasis on film, video, photography and new media.

The building has been widely praised and inspired many other architects. However, the design polarized architecture critics who believed that the building would overshadow the museum’s artworks.

Alchemy (Jackson Pollock)

Some artists have also protested the display of their work in such a space. The continuous spiral ramp gallery, tilted with non-vertical curved walls, presented challenges to the museum’s ability to present art at all as it is awkward and difficult to properly hang paintings in the shallow, windowless concave exhibition niches that surround the central spiral.

The Neighborhood of Jas de Bouffan (Paul Cezanne)

Bibemus (Paul Cezanne)

Canvasses must be mounted raised from the wall’s surface. Paintings hung slanted back would appear “as on the artist’s easel.” There was also limited space within the niches for sculpture.

The Break of Day (1937, oil on canvas, Paul Delvaux)

Landscape Near Antwerp (1906, oil on canvas, Georges Braque)

The slope of the floor and the curvature of the walls also combined to produce vexing optical illusions. Three-dimensional sculpture or any vertical object appears tilted in a “drunken lurch.”

The Sun in Its Jewel Case (Yves Tanguy)

To compensate for the space’s weird geometry, special plinths were constructed at a particular angle, so that pieces were not at a true vertical would appear to be so.

The Red Bird (1944, oil on canvas, Adolph Gottlieb)

Fruit Dish on a Checkered Table Cloth (Juan Gris)

However, this trick proved impossible for an Alexander Calder mobile whose wire inevitably hung at a true plumb vertical, “suggesting hallucination” in the disorienting context of the tilted floor.

The Fourteenth of July (Pablo Picasso)

Bird on a Tree (Pablo Picasso)

Three Bathers (Pablo Picasso)

Some of the most popular and important art exhibitions held here include:

  • The first season “Works and Process,” a series of performances at the Guggenheim begun in 1984, consisted ofPhilip Glass with Christopher Keene on Akhnaten and Steve Reich and Michael Tilson Thomas on The Desert Music.
  • “Africa: The Art of a Continent” (1996)
  • “China: 5,000 Years” (1998)
  • “Brazil: Body & Soul” (2001)
  • “The Aztec Empire” (2004)
  • The Art of the Motorcycle– an unusual exhibition of commercial art installations of motorcycles.
  • The 2009 retrospective of Frank Lloyd Wright – the museum’s most popular exhibit (since it began keeping such attendance records in 1992), it showcased the architect on the 50th anniversary of the opening of the building.

Dancers in Green and Yellow (1903, pastel and charcoal on tracing paper mounted to paperboard, Edgar Degas)

In The International, a shootout occurs in the museum. A life-size replica of the museum was built for this scene. 

Tableau No. 2, Composition No. VII (1913, Oil on Canvas, Piet Mondrian)

Composition 8 (Piet Mondrian)

Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum: 1071 Fifth Avenue corner East 89th Street, Upper East Side, Manhattan, New York City, NY 10128, USA. Tel: +1 212-423-3500. E-mail: Open 10 AM – 5:45 PM. Admission: US$25 for adults, US$18 for students and seniors (65 years + with valid ID), children below 12 years old is free.

Museum of Modern Art (New York City, U.S.A.)

Museum of Modern Art

The Museum of Modern Art (MoMA),  an art museum located in Midtown Manhattan, is one of the largest and most influential museums of modern art in the world. MoMA’s admission cost of US$25 makes it one of the most expensive museums in the city.

The crowd that day inside the museum

However, it has free entry on Fridays, sponsored by clothing company Uniqlo, after 4PM and this we availed of. As such, the museum was more crowded (including the inevitable Oriental selfie snappers) than I would have liked and it was hard to move around but who can complain?

Photography (minus the camera flash) was allowed here, though my pictures didn’t capture the impact of the in-real-life viewing. There are 5 floors of artwork to admire and the huge galleries, whose overall chronological flow presents a perspective of stylistic progression and place in time, were well laid out. I allow a minimum of two hours to explore the museum.

The author besides Joan Miro’s The Hunter – Catalan Landscape (1923-24, Oil on Canvas)

MoMA  has been important in developing and collecting Modernist art and its collection offers an overview of modern and contemporary art, including works of sculpturearchitecture and designdrawingpaintingphotographyprintsillustrated books and artist’s booksfilm and electronic media.

A private non-profit organization, MoMA is the seventh-largest U.S. museum by budget (its annual revenue is about US$145 million, none of which is profit).

Andre Derain (Bathers, 1907, Oil on Canvas)

Vasily Kandinsky (Picture with an Archer, 1909, Oil on Canvas)

Rene Magritte (The Lovers, 1928, Oil on Canvas)

MOMA is considered, by many, to have the best collection of modern Western masterpieces in the world.  Its holdings include more than 150,000 individual pieces in addition to approximately 22,000 films and 4 million film stills (access to the collection ended in 2002 and the collection is mothballed in a vault in Hamlin, Pennsylvania).

Claude Monet (Agapanthus, Oil on Canvas, 1914-26)

Kara Walker (40 Acres of Mules)

Andrea Bowers (A Menace to Liberty, 2012)

All the classics were here and it was moving, inspiring, immersive and absorbing but also a bit overwhelming. The nicely curated collection at the fifth floor houses such important and familiar works as the following:

Claude Monet (The Japanese Footbridge)

Jackson Pollock (One Number 31, 1950)

It also holds works by a wide range of influential European and American artists including Georges BraqueMarcel DuchampWalker EvansHelen FrankenthalerAlberto GiacomettiArshile GorkyHans HofmannEdward HopperPaul KleeFranz KlineWillem de KooningDorothea LangeFernand LégerRoy LichtensteinMorris LouisRené MagritteJoan MiróHenry MooreKenneth NolandGeorgia O’KeeffeJackson PollockRobert RauschenbergAuguste RodinMark RothkoDavid SmithFrank Stella, and hundreds of others.

Fernand Leger (The Mirror, 1925, Oil on Canvas)

Fernand Leger (Woman with a Book, 1923, Oil on Canvas) (1)

Many of the paintings have an audio option which is great for some background information.

Vincent Van Gogh (The Starry Night, 1889, Oil on Canvas)

Seeing the original painting of Vincent van Gogh’s famous The Starry Night was certainly a moving experience that I shall not soon forget. I could actually see the layers and layers of paint, the small brush strokes and all of the colors of paint that are far more vivid on canvas.

Claude Monet (Reflections of Clouds on the Water-Lily Pond)

Claude Monet’s Water Lilies triptych, breathtaking to see in person, was also a big highlight worth seeing. The Picasso’s were also stunning, It was also great to see the full set of Andy WarholCampbell’s Soup Cans.

Any Warhol (Campbell’s soup cans, 1962)

An acquired taste is required for the 3rd and the 4th floors which were very contemporary and not to my liking. The perplexing abstract pieces, using garage components such as snow shovels and car tires hammered (which begs the question “what was that supposed to be?”), didn’t excited me but they were still worth seeing how imaginative (and indulgent) modern artists have become.

Shirana Shahbazi (Composition 40 2011)

Louise Bourgeois (The Quartered One)

Magdalena Abakanowicz (Yellow Abakan, 1967-68)

Certain pieces here challenged my preconceived ideas, making me scratch your head and ask the question “Is that’s art?” upon seeing 7 boards of wood painted white being called art.

Frank Lloyd Wright at 150

The very informative Frank Lloyd-Wright exhibit, with its original drawings (painstakingly rendered the old fashion way), blueprints, sketches and models for many of his projects (both completed and proposed); was very interesting.

Frank Lloyd Wright

Articles about the the myth of the great American architect provide interesting insights into his thinking and inspirations, portraying how advanced his ideas were in many ways.

Henri Matisse – Music (Sketch, 1907, Oil and Charcoal on Canvas)

Henri Matisse (Periwinkles-Morrocan Garden, Oil, Pencil and Charcoal on Canvas, 1912)

Henri Matisse (Still Life with Aubergines, Oil on Canvas, 1911)

Henri Matisse (The Rose Marble Table, Oil on Canvas, 1917)

MoMA’s Department of Architecture and Design, was founded in 1932, is the first museum department in the world dedicated to the intersection of architecture and design.  Philip Johnson, the department’s first director, served as curator between 1932–34 and 1946–54.

Henri Matisse (La Serpentine, Bronze, 1909)

Henri Matisse (Dance-1, 1909, Oil on Canvas)

Henri Matisse (The Morrocans, Oil on Canvas, 1915-16)

The collection consists of 28,000 works including architectural models, drawings and photographs and one of its highlights is the Mies van der Rohe Archive. It also includes works of legendary architects and designers Frank Lloyd WrightPaul László, the EamesesIsamu Noguchi, and George Nelson.

Pablo Picasso (Les Demoiselle d’Avignon, Oil on Canvas, 1907)

Pablo Picasso (Woman with Pears, 1909, Oil on Canvas)

Pablo Picasso (The Studio, Oil on Canvas, 1927-28)

The Design Collection contains many industrial and manufactured pieces, ranging from a self-aligning ball bearing to an entire Bell 47D1 helicopter.

Bell 47D1 helicopter

In 2012, the department acquired a selection of 14 video games, the basis of an intended collection of 40 which is to range from Pac-Man (1980) to Minecraft (2011). The world-renowned Art Photography Collection, founded by Beaumont Newhall in 1940, includes photos by Todd Webb.

Pablo Picasso (Nude with Joined Hands, Oil on Canvas, 1906)

Pablo Picasso (Two Nudes, 1906, Oil on Canvas)

Pablo Picasso (Ma Jolie, 1911)

Pablo Picasso (Bather, Oil on Canvas, 1908-09)

The building also features an entrance for school groups, a 125-seat auditorium, an orientation center, workshop space for teacher training programs, study centers, and a large lobby with double-height views into the beautiful outdoor Sculpture Garden, at the mile of the museum, which features Aristide Maillol’s The River, a great statue of a woman diva laying on her back above the water.

Aristide Maillol (The River)

Alexander Calder (Sandy’s Butterfly, 1964)

From about 1.5 million a year, MoMA has seen its average number of visitors rise to 2.5 million after its new granite and glass renovation. In 2009, the museum reported 119,000 members and 2.8 million visitors over the previous fiscal year.

Paul Cezanne (Still Life with Apples, 1895-98, Oil on Canvas)

Paul Cezanne (L’Estaque, 1879-83, Oil on Canvas)

Paul Cezanne – Château Noir 1904-06, Oil on canvas, 73.6 x 93.2 cm.)

During its 2010 fiscal year, it attracted its highest-ever number of visitors of 3.09 million. However, in 2011, attendance dropped 11% to 2.8 million.

Paul Cezanne (The Bather, 1885, Oil on Canvas)

Paul Cezanne (Pines and Rocks – Fountainbleau)

Since its founding in 1929, the museum was open every day until 1975, when it closed one day a week (originally Wednesdays) to reduce operating expenses. In 2012, it again opened every day, including Tuesday, the one day it has traditionally been closed.

Henry Rosseau (The Sleeping Gypsy, 1897, Oil on Canvas)

Henri Rosseau (The Dream, 1910, Oil on Canvas)

The museum’s awesome gift shop had a lovely selection of gifts such as magnets, prints and more unique items like socks and scarves with art on them as well that summed up all of the amazing art throughout the museum. 

Vasudeo S. Gaitonde (Painting No. 4, 1962)

Mademoiselle Pogany (Constantin Brancusi)

Museum of Modern Art (MoMA): 11 West 53rd St. (between Fifth and Sixth Ave.) , New York City, NY 10019, USA. Open 10:30 AM – 5:30 PM (8 PM on Fridays). Admission: US$25/adult, children below 12 years old is free. 

How to Get There:

Bus: Any line to 53rd Street

Metro: Any line to Fifth Avenue or 53rd Street

Gallerie dell’Accademia (Venice, Italy)

Gallerie dell’Accademia

The Gallerie dell’Accademia (Accademia Gallery of Venice), on the south bank of the Grand Canal, within the sestiere of Dorsoduro, is a museum gallery of pre-19th-century art in Venicenorthern Italy.

The author in front of the museum

Housed in the Palladian complex of the Scuola della Carità (the oldest of the six Scuole Grandi (though the building dates back to 1343, the scuola was formed in 1260), it was originally the gallery of the Accademia di Belle Arti di Venezia (founded on September 24, 1750, it was one of the first institutions to study art restoration starting in 1777 with Pietro Edwards, and formalized by 1819 as a course), the art academy of Venice (from which it became independent in 1879) which remained in the same building until 2004, when the art school moved to the Ospedale degli Incurabili.

Church of Santa Maria della Carita

The museum courtyard

The Ponte dell’Accademia (Academy Bridge, where the museum is literally in front of) and the Accademia boat landing station (where our vaporetto water bus docked) are named after it. Like other state museums in Italy, it falls under the Ministero per i Beni e le Attività Culturali, the Italian ministry of culture and heritage.

Jandy (foreground) in one of the galleries

The absolutely stunning Gallerie dell’Accademia, the picture gallery of the art academy and one of the great museums of the world, owns the most important collection worldwide of more than 800 Venetian paintings, from the Gothic until the Rococo.

Genres covered include Byzantine, Gothic, Renaissance and Baroque. Over time, the collection has increased, thanks to private donations and acquisitions.

Ornate ceiling in Room 1

The museum contains masterpieces of Venetian painting from the 12th through 18th centuries, more or less generally arranged chronologically (since art in the academy has long been taught in chronological order) in 24 rooms, though some thematic displays are evident.

Jandy and Kyle in front of the painting Fisherman Presenting a Ring to the Doge Granedigo (Paris Bordone, 1534, oil on canvas)

The museum, bringing together, under one roof, all the works of art that were scattered throughout Venice, is housed in three buildings  – the Scuola della Carità, the Convento dei Canonici Lateranensi (started in 1561 by Italian Renaissance architect Andrea Palladio, it was never fully completed) and the now deconsecrated Church of Santa Maria della Carità (its facade was completed in 1441 by Bartolomeo Bon).

Angel of the Annunciation and Virgin Annunciate (Giovanni Bellini)

Washing of the Feet (Giovanni Agostino da Lodi, 1500, oil on board)

The former Santa Maria della Carità convent complex maintained its serene composure for centuries until 1807 when Napoleon installed his haul of Venetian art trophies here. The interior of the building is as beautiful as the art it houses.

Archangel Gabriel (Giambattista Cima da Conegliano)

Supper in Emmaus (Marco Marziale, 1506)

The giants of Venetian painting, from the 13th to the 18th centuries, whose wonderful collection of art are represented here include the 1600’s Canaletto Vedutisti, Francesco Guardi, Bernardo Bellotto and Pietro Longhi, down to Renaissance artists such as Gentile and Giovanni BelliniCarpaccioGiorgione,   Titian (or Tiziano), Veronese (Paolo Caliari), Tintoretto and and the Baroque master of the swirling-heavenly-clouds ceiling fresco Gianbattista Tiepolo (who became the second director, after Rococo painter Giovanni Battista Piazzetta, of the academy after his return from Würzburg).

Chess Players (Pittore Caravaggesco)

Holy Family with St. Catherine and John the Baptist (Palma il Vecchio)

Other artists include Antonello da MessinaLazzaro Bastiani,  Pacino di BonaguidaGiulio CarpioniRosalba CarrieraCima da ConeglianoFettiPietro GaspariMichele GiambonoLuca GiordanoJohann LissCharles Le BrunLorenzo LottoMantegnaRocco MarconiMichele MarieschiPiazzettaGiambattista PittoniPreti,   VasariLeonardo da Vinci (Drawing of Vitruvian Man), Alvise Vivarini and Giuseppe Zais.  All these artists influenced the history of European painting.

Allegory of the Battle of Lepanto (Paolo Veronese, ca. 1573, oil on canvas)

Crucifixion (Pittore Veneziano-Padovano, ca. 1460)

An essential visit for painting enthusiasts, it is the most important museum that one can visit during a stay in Venice. The route around the galleries does not really flow in one direction.  In many cases, we had to go down long corridors to view work, only to return along the same corridors, allowing us to revisit work as we walked about.

Mary with the Child of artist Francesco Morone (Francesco Morone)

Madonna of the Small Trees (Giovanni Bellini, 1487)

Our visit to the galleries started off in the 14th century (Paolo Veneziano’s Coronation of the Virgin altarpiece, etc.), continues through Giorgione’s weirdly lit The Tempest and Giovanni Bellini’s many Madonna and Childs, and ends with Carpaccio’s intricate Cycle of St. Ursula and Titian’s late Pietà.

Madonna and Child with St. Simeon and St. Jerome (Giovanni Agostino da Lodi)

Funeral of St Jerome (Lazzaro Bastiani)

The rooms we explored all showed Venice’s precocious flair for color and drama. The massive Tintoretto paintings, from the Scuola Grande di San Marco, can’t be seen from a reasonable viewing distance as they are hung along the sides of corridors which are only about 12 ft. wide.

Triptych of the Martyrdom of St. Liberata (Hiermonymus Bosch, 1500, oil on panel)

Ceres Renders Homage to Venice (Paolo Veronese, 1575)

Room 1 is where you can find Jacobello Alberegno’s Apocalypse  which shows the whore of Babylon, with babbling rivers of blood from her mouth, riding a hydra, and Paolo Veneziano’s Coronation of Mary, at the opposite end of the emotional spectrum, where Jesus bestows the crown on his mother with a gentle pat on the head to the tune of an angelic orchestra).

Crucifixion (Andrea Previtali)

The Miracle of St. Mark Freeing the Slave (Jacopo Tintoretto, 15,48, oil on canvas)

Room 2 is where the eerie, glowing skies of Vittore Carpaccio’s lively Crucifixion and Glorification of the Ten Thousand Martyrs of Mount Ararat seem to make UFO arrivals imminent.

The Crucifixion and the Glorification the Ten Thousand Martyrs on Mt. Ararat (Vittore Carpaccio, 1515, oil on canvas)

Room 4 is where you can find Giovanni Bellini’s quietly elegant Madonna and Child between St Catherine and Mary Magdalene).

Virgin and Child between St. Catherine and Mary Magdalene (Giovanni Bellini, ca. 1500)

Room 10 features paintings by Tintoretto, Titian and Paolo Veronese.  The latter’s monumental Feast in the House of Levi (1573), originally called The Lord’s Last Supper, is shocking, not only for its size (at 42 ft. long, it is one of the largest canvases of the 16th century), but also for its rather racy depiction of the Lord’s holiest of moments. Here, the artist portrayed the Savior and his Apostles cavorting with drunkards, dwarves, Muslims and Reformation-minded Germans in a rousing, drunken banquet that resembled paintings of Roman orgies.

Feast in the House of Levi (Paolo Veronese, 1573, oil on canvas)

The Inquisition leaders, with their rising Puritanism, promptly condemned Veronese, charging the painter with irreverence and threatened to indict him on the very serious charge of heresy. Veronese quickly re-titled the work, still with Jesus in it but now surrounded by secular guests who were free to engage in acts of gluttony.  The mollified censors let it pass.

Stealing of the Body of St. Mark (Jacopo Tintoretto)

Jacopo Tintoretto’s The Stealing of the Body of St. Mark commemorates the Venetian merchants who, in 828, spirited the body of the famed saint and Evangelist away from Alexandria. During that era, Italy’s hyper-competitive maritime capitals competed to see who could steal the best saint and then build a cathedral around his bones. Acquiring bona fide saints was, thus, de rigueur for relic hunters. The painting is, obviously, a bit fanciful as it depicts the now long-dead saint, borne in the arms of the Venetian thieves, as a fresh, rather muscular corpse.

Procession in St. Mark’s Square (Gentile Bellini, 1496, tempera on canvas)

Room 12 is where you’ll find Giambattista Piazzetta’s saucy, fate-tempting socialite in Fortune Teller.  In Room 20, you’ll find works by Carpaccio and Gentile Bellini’s Procession in St Mark’s Square, which offers an intriguing view of Venice’s iconic piazza before its 16th-century makeover.

Departure of the English Ambassadors (Vittore Carpaccio, 1497-98)

The Ambassadors Return to the English Court (Vittore Carpaccio, 1495, oil on canvas)

Room 21 is home to Vittore Carpaccio’s St. Ursula Cycle, a series of 9 paintings documenting the saint’s ill-fated life. In Room 17, you’ll find works of Canaletto, Guardi and Pietro Longhi. Everything is clearly marked and explained. Rooms 12 to 19 are occasionally used for temporary exhibitions.

The Concert (Pietro Longhi, 1741, oil on canvas)

Pieta (Girolamo Romani)

Room 23, a serene showstopper fronted by a Bellini altarpiece, is the original convent chapel where tou can find Giorgione’s highly charged La Tempesta (The Storm) featuring a mysterious nursing mother and a passing soldier with a bolt of summer lightning, its meaning still debated by art historians – is this an expulsion from Eden, an allegory for alchemy, or a reference to Venice conquering Padua in the War of Cambria?

Ornate ceiling of Sala  dell’Albergo

Ornamental splendor is found at the newly restored Sala dell’Albergo, Scuola della Carità’s boardroom (Room 24), which has a lavishly carved ceiling. It faces Antonio Vivarini’s wrap-around masterpiece The Virgin Enthroned with Saints Jerome, Gregory, Ambrose and Augustine (1446 (oil on canvas), filled with fluffy-bearded saints.  closes with The touching 1534–39 Presentation of the Virgin, of Titian, features a young, tiny Madonna trudging up an intimidating staircase.  A distinctly Venetian crowd of onlookers points to her example yet few of the velvet and pearl-clad merchants offer alms to the destitute mother or even feed the begging dog.

Presentation of the Virgin at the Temple (Titian, 1534)

Gallerie dell’Accademia: Campo della Carita,  Dorsoduro 1050, 30123 Venice, Italy.  Tel: +39 041 522 2247.  Admission: €15 (entry to the museum is free on the first Sunday of every month). Open Mondays, 8:15 AM to 2 PM, Tuesdays to Sundays, 8:15 AM to 7:15 PM (last entrance at 6:15 PM). When you buy your ticket you will be asked to place backpacks and additional bags bigger than 20 x 30 x 15 cms. inside lockers (€1), but you will get you money back when you retrieve your belongings. There is an audio guide (for an extra €6). Photography is allowed as long as you do not use your flash. During the busy season, queues can be long after 10 AM. Admissions are restricted to 400 people at the same time.

How to Get There:  the museum is about a 15-20 min walk from St Marks and is easy to find as it is well signposted in the Dorsoduro district.

Church of St. Peter Martyr (Venice, Italy)

The Church of St. Peter Martyr (Italian: Chiesa di San Pietro Martire), currently one of the two main Roman catholic parish churches (the other is the Basilica of St. Donato) and one of three remaining (before Napoleon there were 18, the third is the Church of St. Mary of the Angels ) in the island of Murano, near Venice, was edificated in 1348 along with a Dominican convent and was originally dedicated to St. John the Baptist.  In 1474, a fire razed it to the ground and, in 1511, it was rebuilt and enlarged to the current appearance and rededicated to St. Peter Martyr.

Church of St. Peter Martyr

In 1806, a few years after the fall of the Republic of Venice, it was closed but was reopened in 1813 as a parish church due to an initiative by Fr. Stefano Tosi, with art from other suppressed churches and monasteries on Murano and other islands. At its reopening the church was renamed St. Peter and Paul (S. Pietro e Paolo) but, in 1840, it reverted to its present name.

During the restoration of 1922-28, the original ceiling and the frescos of the saints above the pillars were revealed.  The colonnade from the demolished convent of Santa Chiara was also reassembled and attached to the west flank of the church in 1924. From 1981 to 1983, the church underwent a restoration campaign financed by the Italian Ministry of Culture.  The roof was repaired and the rotten brickwork was replaced. Save Venice provided emergency funding to repair stone parts of the two-light “bifora” window above the side entrance door.

The church’s Renaissance façade, of naked brickwork, is divided in three sections.  Its 16th-century portal is surmounted by a large rose window. On the left façade is a portico with Renaissance arcades and columns (perhaps what remains of the original cloister) and a bell tower, dating to 1498-1502 (its original bells came from England but have been recast many times since, most recently in 1942 after war damage). The church is 55 m. (180 ft.) long, 25 m. (82 ft.) wide and 13 m. (43 ft.) wide at the nave.

The impressively spacious and tall interior, with a basilica plan, has a nave and two aisles (divided from each other by rows of four arches supported by large columns), a wooden ceiling,  tie beams across the arches and the nave, a trussed roof, a wide and deep half-domed chancel, a high altar and three minor altars for each nave. The spandrels between the arches are nicely decorated with saints.  The quite large presbytery has barrel vaults and two small, wide and deep apsidal chapels.

In the right nave are artworks including a Baptism of Christ (attributed to Tintoretto, it came from above the high altar of the demolished San Giovanni dei Battuti on Murano) plus two works by Giovanni BelliniAssumption with Saints (1510–1513) and the Barbarigo Altarpiece (or The Madonna with Doge Agostino Barbarigo, 1488), taken from the nearby church of Santa Maria degli Angeli and brought here in 1815.

The row of arches supported by large columns

Other paintings include a St. Jerome in the Desert by Paolo Veronese (also from Santa Maria degli Angeli), St Agatha Visited in Prison by St. Peter and an Angel  (also by Veronese), the Barcaioli Altarpiece (or Virgin and Child with Saints) by Giovanni Agostino da Lodi (ca. 1500, it was previously thought to be by Basaiti and came from the demolished San Cristoforo delle Pace), a Deposition from the Cross by Giuseppe Porta, Saints Nicholas, Charles Borromeo and Lucy by Palma il Giovane (which came from the demolished church of Santi Biagio e Cataldo on Giudecca) and a 1495 Ecce Homo (perhaps from the destroyed church of Santo Stefano in Murano). In the left-hand apsidal chapel is a hard-to-see painting by Domenico Tintoretto while a pair of huge paintings by Bartolomeo Latteri (including an impressively architectural Nozze di Cana) covering both side walls of the deep chancel.

The Ballarin Chapel, at the church’s right wing, was built in 1506 after the death of Giuliano Ballarin, the eponymous glassmaker from Murano.

Chiesa di San Pietro Martire: Fondamenta dei Vetrai, Campiello Marco Michieli 3, 30141 Murano, Venice VE, Italy. Tel: +39 041 739704.  Open Mondays to Saturdays, 9 AM – 12 noon and 3 – 6 PM, and Sundays, 3- 6 PM.

Palazzo Strozzi (Florence, Italy)

Palazzo Strozzi

Palazzo Strozzi

From Kandinsky to Pollock The Art of the Guggenheim Collections (3)Palazzo Strozzi, facing the historical Via de’ Tornabuoni, is one of the finest examples of Renaissance domestic and civil architecture.  It has, since World War II, been Florence’s largest temporary exhibition space and, today, the palace is used for the now-annual antique show (founded as the Biennale dell’Antiquariato in 1959), international expositions, fashion shows, and other cultural and artistic events such as “Cézanne in Florence, Two Collectors and the 1910 Exhibition of Impressionism.” During our visit, there ongoing exhibits were “Migrazioni” (Liu Xiadong, April 22-June 19, 2016) and “From Kandinsky to Pollock: The Art o the Guggenheim Collections” (March 19-July 24, 2016)

From Kandinsky to Pollock The Art of the Guggenheim Collections

From Kandinsky to Pollock The Art of the Guggenheim Collections

Designed by Benedetto da Maiano and begun in 1489  , the palace was built for Florentine banker, statesman and merchant Filippo Strozzi the Elder, a rival of the  Medici who had returned to the city in November 1466.  He desired the most magnificent palace to assert his affluent family’s continued prominence and, perhaps more important, a political statement of his own status.

Wooden model of the Palazzo Strozzi

Wooden model of the Palazzo Strozzi

To provide enough space for the construction of the largest palace that had ever been seen in Florence, a great number of other buildings were acquired during the 1470s and then demolished. A wood model of the design was provided by Giuliano da Sangallo. Italian architect Simone del Pollaiolo (il Cronaca), in charge of its construction until 1504, left the palace incomplete and the palace was only completed in 1538, long after Filippo Strozzi’s death in 1491.  That same year, Duke Cosimo I de’ Medici confiscated it but it was returned to the Strozzi family thirty years later.

Cortile (Central Courtyard)

Cortile (Central Courtyard)

Cortile (Central Courtyard) (3)It remained the property and seat of the Strozzi family until 1937, after which time it was occupied by the Istituto Nazionale delle Assicurazioni which made great changes to the building. Since 1999, it has been managed by the City of Florence. The Palazzo is now home to the Institute of Humanist Studies, the Fondazione Palazzo Strozzi (Palazzo Strozzi Foundation), the noted Gabinetto Vieusseux, with its library and reading room, and the Istituto Nazionale del Rinascimento (Renaissance Studies Institute), the last two occupying the building since 1940.

The dominating cornice

The dominating cornice

StairFrom Palazzo Medici, Filippo copied the cubic form, designing its three floors around a cortile  (central courtyard) surrounded by an arcade,  inspired by Michelozzo. Its rusticated stone was also inspired by the Palazzo Medici but with more harmonious proportions. However, this free-standing structure is surrounded on all four sides by streets unlike the Medici Palace which is sited on a corner lot and, thus, has only two sides. The ground plan of Palazzo Strozzi, rigorously symmetrical on its two axes, with clearly differentiated scales for its principal rooms, introduced a problem new in Renaissance architecture (given the newly felt desire for internal symmetry of planning symmetry) – how to integrate the cross-axis.

The paired mullioned windows

The paired mullioned windows

Migrazioni (Liu Xiadong) (3)The three sides overlooking the street each have three arched portals. The palazzo, with its dominating cornice (typical of the Florentine palaces of the time), has paired mullioned  windows (bifore) and wrought-iron lanterns, done by an iron-worker named Caparra, decorating the corners of the palace exterior. As they rise to the keystone, the radiating voussoirs of the arches increase in length, a detail that was much copied for arched windows set in rustication in the Renaissance revival.

Migrazioni (Liu Xiadong)

Migrazioni (Liu Xiadong)

Palazzo Strozzi: Piazza degli Strozzi, 50123 Florence, Italy. Tel: +39 055 264 5155. Open daily, 10 AM – 8 PM (Thursdays, 11 PM). E-mail: Website: Admission: €12.00.

Bargello Museum (Florence, Italy)

Opened as a national museum (Museo Nazionale del Bargello) in 1865, its original structure, built alongside the Volognana Tower in 1256, had two storeys. After the fire of 1323, a third story, identified by the smaller blocks used to construct it, was added. During the 15th century, the palace was also subjected to a series of alterations and additions but still preserving its harmonious and pleasant severity.

Bargello Museum

Bargello Museum

Here are some interesting historical trivia regarding this building:

  • Started in 1255, this austere crenelated building is the oldest public building in Florence.
  • The word “bargello” appears to have been derived from the late Latin word bargillus (from Goth bargi and German burg), meaning “castle” or “fortified tower.” During the Italian Middle Ages, it was the name given to a military captain in charge of keeping peace and justice (hence “Captain of justice”) during riots and uproars. In Florence he was usually hired from a foreign city to prevent any appearance of favoritism on the part of the Captain. The position could be compared with that of a current Chief of police. The name Bargello was extended to the building which was the office of the captain.
  • It is also known as the Palazzo del Bargello, Museo Nazionale del Bargello or Palazzo del Popolo (Palace of the People)
  • This building served as model for the construction of the Palazzo Vecchio. Honolulu Hale‘s interior courtyard, staircase and open ceiling were also modeled after the Bargello.
  • It was built to first house the Capitano del Popolo (“Captain of the People”) and, later, in 1261, the “podestà,” the highest magistrate of the Florence City Council (it was originally called the Palazzo del Podestà). In 1574, the Medici dispensed with the function of the podestà and housed the bargello, the police chief of Florence.
  • Before it was turned into an art museum, it was a former barracks and prison during the whole 18th century. Executions, the most famous perhaps being that of Bernardo di Bandino Baroncelli (involved in the Pazzi conspiracy against the Medici, which Leonardo da Vinci also witnessed), also took place in the Bargello’s yard until they were abolished by Grand Duke Peter Leopold in 1786, but it remained the headquarters of the Florentine police until 1859. When Leopold II, the Holy Roman Emperor, was exiled, the makeshift Governor of Tuscany decided that the Bargello should no longer be a jail, and it then became a national museum. It was also the meeting place of the Council of the Hundred in which Dante Alighieri took part.
  • It displays the largest Italian collection, mainly from the grand ducal collections, of “minor” Gothic decorative arts and Renaissance sculptures (14–17th century).
The courtyard

The unique courtyard

The building is designed around a beautiful, irregular and unique open courtyard with an open well in the center. The walls of the courtyard are covered with dozens of coats-of-arms of the various podestà and giudici di ruota (judges).

The centrally located open well

The centrally located open well

The enormous entrance hall leading to the courtyard has heraldic decorations on the walls with the coats-of-arms of the podestà (13th-14th centuries). The courtyard has more coats-of-arms of the podestà.  Under the porticoes are insignia of the quarters and districts of the city. Set against its walls are various 16th century statues by Baccio Bandinelli, Bartolomeo Ammannati, Domenico  Pieratti, Niccolò di Pietro Lamberti, Giambologna and Vincenzo Danti.

The external open staircase leading to the loggia

The external open staircase leading to the loggia

The external open staircase leading to the second floor loggia, built in the 14th century, has various ornamental works by other 16th century artists including the delightful bronze animals made for the garden of the Medici Villa di Castello.

The author in ront of the statue of Oceano (Giambologna)

The author in front of the statue of Oceano (Giambologna)

Juno Fountain originally for the Sala Grande

Juno Fountain originally for the Sala Grande in Palazzo Vecchio (Bartolomeo Ammannati)

Alpheus and Arethusa, a 16th century relief

Alpheus and Arethusa, a 16th century relief

Apollo Pitio Vincenzo Danti)

Apollo Pitio (Vincenzo Danti)

San Giovanni Battista (circa 1620, Domenico Pieratti)

Statue of St. John the Baptist (circa 1620, Domenico Pieratti)

San Lucas Evangelista(Niccolò di Pietro Lamberti)

Statue of St. Luke the Evangelist  (Niccolò di Pietro Lamberti)

The first room to the right, formerly the Salone del Consiglio Generale but now the Donatello Room, contains many works of Donatello (1386-1466). The St. George Tabernacle (1416), moved to this location from the niche in Orsanmichele, is the very first example of the stiacciato technique, a very low bas-relief that provides the viewer with an illusion of depth, and one of the first examples of central-point perspective in sculpture.

The Marzocco, one of the symbols of Florence (Donatello)

The Marzocco, one of the symbols of Florence (Donatello)

Other works include the young St. John; the marble David (1408); the more mature and ambiguous bronze David (1430), the first delicate nude of the Renaissance; and the Marzocco, originally installed on the battlements of Palazzo Vecchio.

Madonna and Child between Angels (1475, Luca della Robbia)

Madonna and Child between Angels (1475, Luca della Robbia)

At the back wall of the Donatello Room are two bronze bas-relief panels, both competing designs for “The Sacrifice of Isaac” (Sacrificio di Isacco, the image had to include the father and son, as well as an altar, a donkey, a hill, two servants and a tree) made and entered by Lorenzo Ghiberti and Filippo Brunelleschi to win the contest for the second set of north doors of the Florence Baptistery (1401) in Piazza del Duomo. The judges chose Ghiberti for the commission.

Madonna and Child with St. John (Giovanni della Robbia)

Madonna and Child with St. John (Giovanni della Robbia)

Two rooms on the second floor are dedicated to the repertoire of glazed Renaissance terracotta sculptures created by Andrea Della Robbia, Luca Della Robbia (c. 1400 – 1482) and Giovanni Della Robbia.   The glazed terracotta by Luca della Robbia includes a very extraordinary group of Madonna with Child.

Drunkeness of Noah (Baccio Bandinelli)

Drunkeness of Noah (Baccio Bandinelli)

Diana and Actaeon (Francesco Mosca)

Diana and Actaeon (c. 1578, Francesco Mosca)

The large 14th century hall, on the first floor, displays a collection of 14th century sculpture, including works by Nicola Pisano.  The rooms on the ground floor exhibit Tuscan 16th century works. The room closest to the staircase focuses, in particular, on four important masterpieces by Michelangelo (1475-1564): Bacchus (1470, the tipsy god of wine is being held up by a tree trunk and a little satyr), Pitti Tondo (relief representing a Madonna with Child), Brutus (1530) and David-Apollo.

Bacchus (Michelangelo)

Bacchus (Michelangelo)

The assortment is then followed by works of Andrea Sansovino (1460-1529), Jacopo Sansovino‘s Bacchus  (1486-1570, made on his own to compete against Michelangelo’s), Baccio Bandinelli (1488- 1560), Bartolomeo Ammannati (1511-1592), Benvenuto Cellini (represented with his bronze bust of Cosimo I and the model of Perseus and the small bronze sculptures, moved to this location from the Loggia dell’Orcagna), down to Giambologna (1529-1608) with his Architecture and the admirable Mercury; and Vincenzo Gemito‘s Il Pescatore (“fisherboy”).

L'Architectura (Giambologna)

Architecture (Giambologna)

Il Pescatore (Vincenzo Gemito)

Il Pescatore (Vincenzo Gemito)

Adam and Eve (Baccio Bandinelli)

Adam and Eve (Baccio Bandinelli)

Leda with the Swan (marble, Bartolomeo Ammannati)

Marble statue of Leda with the Swan (Bartolomeo Ammannati)

Mercury (Giambologna)

Mercury (Giambologna)

There are a few works from the Baroque period, notably Gianlorenzo Bernini‘s 1636-7 Bust of Costanza Bonarelli. The staircases now display bronze animals that were originally placed in the grotto of the Medici villa of Castello. There are also sculptures by Michelozzo di Bartolomeo and others.

Limoges porcelain

Limoges porcelain

Also distributed among the several rooms of the palace, both on the first and second floor, are many other fine works of art enriched by the Carrand, Ressman and Franchetti collections comprising decorative or “minor” arts.  They include ivories that include several Roman and Byzantine examples; Medieval glazes and Limoges porcelain from German and French gold works; Renaissance jewels; Islamic examples of damascened bronze; and Venetian glass; all  from the Medici collections and those of private donors.

Bronze statue of David (1466, Andrea del Verrocchio)

Bronze statue of David (1466, Andrea del Verrocchio)

The bronze David and the Lady with Posy by Andrea del Verrocchio are in the room named after the artist.

Bust of Cardinal Paolo Emilio Zacchia (1625, Algardi)

Bust of Cardinal Paolo Emilio Zacchia (1625, Alessandro Allgardi)

Also on display are an extraordinary collection of busts of Florentine personalities made by some of the most important 15th century artists such as Desiderio da Settignano (c. 1430-1464) and Antonio Rossellino (c. 1427-1479), both pupils of Donnatello; Alessanro Algardi, Mino da Fiesole,  Antonio Pollaiolo and others.

Arms and armor

Display cases of arms and armor from the Middle Ages to the 17th century

The museum also displays very unique panel pieces and wooden sculptures; ceramics (maiolica); waxes;  goldwork and enamels from the Middle Ages to the 16th century; furniture; textiles; tapestries in the Sala della Torre; silver; arms and armor from the Middle Ages to the 17th century; small bronze statues, old coins and a very lavish collection of medals by Pisanello belonging to the Medici family.


Medals belonging to the Medici family

Bargello Museum: Via del Proconsolo 4, Florence, Italy. Open Tuesdays to Fridays, 8.15 AM – 1.50 PM, closed on the 2nd and 4th Sunday and the 1st, 3rd and 5th Monday of each month. Admission: €4.00.

Orsanmichele Church (Florence, Italy)

Orsanmichele Church

Orsanmichele Church

The square Orsanmichele Church was constructed on the site of the now gone kitchen garden of the Benedictine monastery of San Michele (from the contraction of “Kitchen Garden of St. Michael” in Tuscan dialect of the Italian word orto.


It was originally built in 1337 as a grain market  (chutes for the wheat are still to be seen inside the piers) by architects Simone di Francesco Talenti, Neri di Fioravante and Benci di Cione and finished in 1349. Between 1380 and 1404, the loggia was closed in and designed (by Francesco Talenti) and converted into a chapel of Florence’s powerful craft and trade guilds.

Incredulity of St. Thomas (Andrea del Verrocchio)

Incredulity of St. Thomas (Andrea del Verrocchio)

St. George (Donatello)

St. George (Donatello)

The lower level façade was embellished with 14 architecturally designed external niches (originally 13th-century arches that originally formed the loggia of the grain market) which were filled, from 1399 to around 1430, with statues of the guild’s patron saints. The statues of the three richest guilds were made in more costly bronze (approximately ten times the amount of the stone figures).

St. John the Baptist (Lorenzo Ghiberti)

St. John the Baptist (Lorenzo Ghiberti)

St. Luke (Giambologna)

St. Luke (Giambologna)

The tabernacles around the outside, from the foremost Florentine Renaissance artists of the 15th (Nanni di Banco, Lorenzo Ghiberti, Andrea del VerrocchioDonatello) and 16th century (Giambologna), were assigned to the principal guilds (Arti Maggiori), the medium guilds (Mediane) and to the guild of the Armorers and Swordmakers.

St. Matthew (Lorenzo Ghiberti)

St. Matthew (Lorenzo Ghiberti)

Those guilds which did not have the privilege of an external tabernacle had their patron saint depicted in fresco or on panel inside the building. The most important tabernacle, in the center of the façade, facing Via de’ Calzaioli, was assigned first to the Parte Guelfa and then to the Tribunal of the Mercatanzia. The tabernacles are:

  • St. Peter by Donatello
  • St. Philip by Nanni di Banco
  • Four Crowned Saints group by Nanni di Banco
  • St. George (1417) by Donatello
  • St. Matthew by Lorenzo Ghiberti
  • St. Stephan by Lorenzo Ghiberti
  • St. Eligius by Nanni di Banco
  • St. Mark by Donatello
  • St. Jacob by Niccolò di Piero Lamberti (?)
  • Madonna della Rosa by Govanni di Piero Tedesco (?)
  • John the Evangelist by Baccio da Montelupo
  • St. Luke by Gianbologna
  • Incredulity of St. Thomas (1467-83) by Andrea del Verrocchio, replacing Louis of Toulouse (1433) by Donatello
  • St. John the Baptist by Lorenzo Ghiberti

The sculptures seen today are modern duplicates.  To protect them from the elements and vandalism, many of the original sculptures have been removed to the museum of Orsanmichele at the upper floor of the church.  Statues of  St. George (and its niche) and St. Louis of Toulouse, both works by Donatello, are in the Bargello Museum (moved in 1892) and in the Museum of Santa Croce of the Basilica di Santa Croce respectively.

Frescoes of saints on the pillars by Jacopo dal Casentino

Frescoes of saints on the pillars by Jacopo dal Casentino


The façade also has elegant mullioned windows, in the Late Gothic style, and stained glass by Niccolò di Pietro Gerini showing Scenes and miracles of the Virgin (1395-1405).

The Late Gothic interior

The Late Gothic interior


The almost intact but atmospherically gloomy Late Gothic interior, with its square layout and piers (their positioning recalls the arrangement of the original open loggia) features the monumental marble altar, with Virtues and scenes from the life of the Virgin in relief, not in the center but to the right.

Fresco painting on ceiling by Jacopo dal Casentino

Fresco painting on ceiling by Jacopo dal Casentino

The bejeweled Gothic tabernacle encases a repainting, by Bernardo Daddi, of an older icon of the Madonna and Child (1346), known as the Madonna delle Grazie.  It was commissioned in 1355, a year after the terrible plague, from Andrea Orcagna (Andrea di Cione), but not finished until 1359.


The Gothic tabernacle

To the left of the nave is the votive altar of St. Anne, built in 1379 by order of the Signoria, with a marble group of St. Anne, the Virgin and Child by Francesco da Sangallo (c. 1526). On the walls there are patchy traces of frescoes that depict the patron saints of the various guilds.

Altar of St. Anne

Altar of St. Anne

Orsanmichele Church: Via dell’Arte della Lana, corner with Via Calzaiouli 50122 Florence, Italy. Tel: +39 055 23885. Admission: free.  The Museum of the Orsanmichele (Museo di Orsanmichele), reached by the bridge from the adjacent Palazzo dell’Arte della Lana, is open every Monday.