The Morgan Library in the Murray Hill neighborhood of Manhattan is truly a treasure. John Pierpont Morgan sure knew how to read in style. The Morgan family were influential financiers who accumulated a massive amount of wealth. By the late 1800s, J.P. Morgan was one of the richest men in the world. His New York mansion epitomized Gilded Age excess with his library mirroring some of the finest in Europe.
Morgan’s library takes me to another time (and class) when a vast library was an indication of a cultured person. The library gives visitors insight into his home, including Mr. Morgan’s Library, Study, and Rotunda. There are also exhibits in the much more modern exhibition space attached to the home. Galleries are filled with treasures, including traveling exhibits of quite some renown. Each room is lavishly decorated and speaks to the wealth of its former owner.
The Morgan library features three tiers of bookshelves reaching thirty feet in height. The bookcases are made of bronze and walnut; two staircases, concealed behind the books, provide access to the mezzanine and top balcony tier. Frescoed ceilings cap the bookcases creating a fabulous gilded masterpiece above the treasured tomes. A monumental fireplace punctuates one wall with Belgian tapestries atop it.
Connecting Mr. Morgan’s Library to his study is a neoclassical Rotunda. This room reinforces that no matter which room one chooses to enter next it will be a space of greatness. Marble, lapis lazuli, and other fine materials adorn the vaulted foyer. Stucco reliefs pay homage to Raphael’s Renaissance designs for a Roman villa. The paintings of the Rotunda’s dome, too, are inspired by Raphael—this time his work in the Vatican rooms near the Sistine Chapel.
Across the hall from the library, connected by the Rotunda, was Mr. Morgan’s Study. Can you imagine how fabulous this working space was for him?!? Having this as my home office would be a dream come true. I would skip to get books every single day!
Mr. Morgan’s study is, fittingly, more intimate than the other rooms. The walls are covered in red damask bearing the Chigi (great Italian banking family) coat of arms which gives the room a sumptuous, yet cozy, feeling. Stained-glass panels in the windows are from churches and monasteries in Switzerland dating from the 15th to 17th centuries. The antique wooden ceiling was purchased in Florence, Italy. Paintings and other works of art by Renaissance masters adorn the room.
When built: 1906
Current Collection: Pierpont Morgan’s immense holdings ranged from Egyptian art to Renaissance paintings to Chinese porcelains. His collection was vast including not just printed books, but medieval and Renaissance manuscripts (some illuminated), papyrus fragments, tablets, ancient Near Eastern seals and tablets, music (like that by Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart), literary and historical manuscripts, drawings, prints (Peter Paul Rubens and more), paintings, art objects, photography, artifacts, rare editions, and some of the most fantastic treasures money can buy (and the Morgan family could purchase a lot!). It was here that I was able to view the famed Crusader Bible—its pages rich with biblical stories gilded in gold and saturated with color even 800 years later. It is a fantastic example of French Gothic illumination. http://www.themorgan.org/collection/Crusader-Bible
At the Morgan, one can travel across the world and through time! The library, Mr. Morgan’s study, the Rotunda, and the other exhibit spaces are well-worth the price of admission, but they often have free admission hours on Fridays. I highly recommend you make the Morgan Library NYC a place to visit!
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