Monday, June 30, 2008

Gone Fishin'...

We have just returned from a few days away at a beach side resort in San Simeon. Among the fun things we did was tour Hearst Castle, the home that William Randolph Hearst built for his girlfriend, Marion Davies. Imagine 56 bedrooms, 61 bathrooms and 41 fireplaces. The estate has an outdoor pool, an indoor pool, tennis courts, a library with 4,000 books, a refectory that could seat 48 for dinner, and, at one time, a zoo that rivaled many of the public ones. (The old bear cages are still in existence and wild zebras still graze along HWY. 1.)

Amazing art treasures can be found in every room there and that is what I loved most about being in W.R. Hearst's gonzo extravaganza of wealth. We were enthralled with the antique ceilings, the perfect Greek vases dating as far back as 700 B.C., rare Asian carpets, Tiffany lamps.... A myriad of art and mosaics can be found throughout the vast home and adjoining guest houses. Art and architectural elements that were instilled by architect, Julia Morgan, originating primarily in Spain and Italy complement the Mediterranean Revival architecture. Antique furniture, ceilings, mantels, doors, paintings, sculptures, bas-reliefs, textiles and tapestries, comprise much of what is seen there.

The Roman Pool is decorated from ceiling to floor with 1" square glass mosaic tiles. They are either colored (mainly blue or orange) or are clear with fused 24K gold inside. The intense colors and shimmering gold of the tiles combine to create a breathtaking effect.I can't even begin to describe how beautiful this pool is! The designs created by the tiles were developed by muralist Camille Solon. The inspiration for some of these designs came from the 5th Century Mausoleum of Galla Placidia.

Sekhmet Fountain
Sekhmet Fountain, was designed by architect Julia Morgan to incorporate four ancient Egyptian sculptures of the lion-faced goddess, 1300-1600 B.C. The sculptures were facing the Nile River when Moses floated down the river during Biblical times.

Mr. Hearst was an avid collector of sculpture. Discobolus, or the Discus Thrower, is of late 19th or early 20th-century manufacture. It is an Italian copy in bronze of the original marble by Greek sculptor Myron (5th century B.C.). Detailed examination during conservation treatment showed that the sculpture was still filled with plaster-like material used in the original casting process. This material absorbs moisture, then causes salts to leach through the pores of the bronze to the surface of the sculpture, resulting in corrosion and loss of metal; this material was removed. The sculpture was cleaned, and corrosion and mineral deposits were removed from the surface, which was then treated to arrest corrosion and to replace lost areas of metal. The patina of the surface was re-touched where necessary, and the entire sculpture was waxed to help protect and preserve the bronze.

This third century Roman mosaic depicts a merman and sea-life. It served as the floor of the main entrance into Casa Grande.

Magnificent tapestries lined many of the walls inside the castle. To help ensure these pieces survive another five hundred years, conservation treatment included: gentle cleaning; re-weaving and repairing time-damaged sections; reinforcing the stitching at separated areas, and re-lining the back of the tapestry with conservation-quality fabric.

Winged Victory

Also known as Nike of Brescia,Winged Victory is an early 20th-century Italian bronze copy by Umberto Marcellini of the original in the Roman Museum in Brescia, Italy. Winged Victory, unfortunately, shared the same manufacturing defect that plagued the other bronze statue shown above. Discobolus casting material left inside the sculpture was causing corrosion. Conservation treatment was essentially the same for both bronzes. Funding for this project was graciously provided by the Sence Foundation.

Architect Julia Morgan not only designed the main house and guest houses, she was the landscape architect as well:

George Plimpton made a fantastic, informative video about Hearst Castle's art preservation efforts:

If you can't see the video, please click HERE.

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