Saturday, January 8, 2011

A grand instrument

In 1903, Roosevelt had a very grand piano commissioned from Steinway & Sons for the East Room. Steinway commissioned noted Aesthetic artist Thomas Dewing to paint the inside of the gilded case in a patriotic theme which he entitled America receiving the 9 muses.
In the painted scene, women in colonial revival gowns representing art, music, poetry and learning pay homage to America, the new steward of western culture, as represented by the seated woman. The piano now resides at the National Portrait Gallery, but I think it should be brought back to the White House, don't you?

18 comments:

VoiceTalk said...

Since the keyboard is covered with a clear cover, I wonder if it is played? If not, that is a shame. Steinway made really beautiful sounding instruments during this period.

Hels said...

Great piece of.. furniture and art!

I think it is much more likely to be seen by thousands of ordinary families each year in the National Portrait Gallery. Who would see it in the White House - boring old politicians and ambassadors.

Heidiopia said...

What a beauty! I adore the painted interior-- so clever, so romantic! I agree with Hels: better that it can be enjoyed and appreciated by the most number of visitors. Probably best left where it is.
Enjoy your day!

Ragland Hill Social by Gwen Driscoll said...

This is lovely. Thanks for sharing. I think I like its residence in the National Portrait Gallery. Hope you are having a great weekend and Happy New Year!

Woody said...

I agree with Hels above, it would make more of a statement to more people in the portrait gallery (even despite their little censorship faux pas), but I do think the impact it would have on those stuffy old folk would be profound too. It's such a statement either way.

ChipSF said...

For my taste this is a bit garish. and after the lovely photos of the White House you showed last week I don't know that I wold like to see it there.

It also reminds that for many years I heard about a similar piano owned by relatives in Pebble Beach. It was commissioned from Steinway in the 20's or 30's and the inlaid scenes around the piano each represented a different California Mission. No idea what happened to it, although it may have stayed in the Pebble Beach villa when it was sold.

Digs Inside & Out said...

....amazingly beautiful! What a treasure....tank you for posting this!

Karena said...

Stefan, in awe as always of such works of art! I would like it to be seen by as many as possible.

xoxo
Karena
Art by Karena

The Devoted Classicist said...

Despite my preference for reuniting furniture and architecture, this piano is best kept in a museum. The White House is best served by a new piano that can better withstand so many different users. But I enjoyed the feature!

Bob@guymeetstabletop said...

Thank you for your White house posts! Speaking of Steinways, there is a great documentary titled Note By Note that chronicles the story of one piano (L1037) from Alaskan timber to the final tuning at the factory in Astoria. One also gets an intimate look at this great American company, virtually the last of its kind here. Fascinating.

Blue said...

I would not like to see this instrument return to the White House for in a museum as it is it is more readily available for more people than it would be if returned.

It is a superb piano and the Aesthetic Period painting inside the lid is very beautiful - probably the last time the concept of Muses could be used without having people burst out laughing. Pity, really!

Room Temperature said...

That's a really handsome piano, but I agree that it ought to stay where it is, although for a different reason. The instrument's opulent style was probably perfect for the plush decor of the White House as it was when TR moved in, but after the renovations of 1904, this would have looked way too fussy. What a difference a year makes. Oh, well, at least it's gone to a good home.

As far as Blue's vision of people laughing at the Muses on the lid goes, without a text nearby explaining everything, I doubt that most of the people shuffling past have any idea of who the Muses were, anyway. Laughter--even ignorant laughter--depends on seeing some sort of incongruity, and that depends on people's being able to recognize the players in the first place. These days, visual allusion is pretty much a wasted effort. Even when things are spelled out, a lot of people still don't get the message.

One time I listened as an elderly tour guide identified for a group of thirty-something tourists the subjects of a landmark church's stained glass windows. Jesus they had already spotted, and they sort-of recognized Jonah's name--the guy with the whale?--but most of the names and stories meant nothing to them. The woman at the well? Loaves & fishes? Micah? Amos?...Who? She might as well have been speaking a foreign language.

tales from an oc cottage said...

I agree! It's absolutely awesome!!!


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ArchitectDesign™ said...

Hmm, good points everyone. I hadn't thought of the number of people seeing it. I just assumed as it's a steinway grand it would still be a good instrument? Not sure if it ever gets played at the museum. I just don't understand why the white house is so focused on some aspects of its' own history and not others.

Laura Casey Interiors said...

I agree that it should remain where it can be seen by more people, but also feel that it may "belong" in the White House. Either way, it is beautiful.

Janet said...

I think it would be fun to have it loaned for a musical evening. That would be a grand event. Now, who should they get to play it. . . ?

Hope you are feeling better!

Pamela Terry and Edward said...

Oh yes, I agree. It should be part of the "people's house". Or perhaps.... mine?? It's exquisite.

Eric H said...

I rather it stay in a museum. I wouldn't want Sacha and Maliya banging away on the keys, as children always do, if it was in the White House.