Tag Archives: Frank Lloyd Wright

Cabinet of Curiosities

Inside of view 3

The Augsburg Art Cabinet virtual tour is a featured item in this week’s Cabinet of Curiosities.

inside the Augsburg cabinet

The Museum at Gustavianum developed an exciting interactive view of this historic masterpiece, referred to  as the Eighth Wonder of the World.  Such high praise raises expectations to the extreme, although well deserved.  Not only is the cabinet one of the best preserved pieces of 17th century antiquity, the collected contents survived intact, providing a microcosm of the day and showcasing how these cabinets were more than a storage area for the eccentric odds of a collector.

outside doors of view 3

The items range from a bird house and miniature cannon, to a complete toilet set.  Each side of the cabinet is functional, gaming tables appear in hidden drawers, and religious paintings reveal personal worship items including a small porcelain ring painted with images inside the cylinder and out.  The interactive features allow the viewer to open drawers and remove covers, exposing these private items.

outside cover of cabinet 2

inside the Augsburg cabinet 2

mirrortoilet stand

The website requires a Flash player download, but is well worth the time to view these pieces and learn more about the history behind this cabinet.

The first story I want to share in this week’s cabinet comes from the Wall Street JournalJanet Stephens, hairdresser by day, intrepid researcher and historian by night, morphing into hairdo archaeologist.  Amateur scholarship, once frowned upon in academic circles, is now considered groundbreaking, as teaching methods and rote memorization of dates become learning styles of the past.

Roman Empress Julia Doman at the Walters Art Museum

Ms. Stephens’ story begins at the Walters Art Museum in Baltimore, where she observed the bust of Roman Empress Julia Domna.   The hairstyle amazed her, but recreating the gravity defying design proved a daunting task, and she turned to the history books for more information.  Dismissing the scholarly belief that these hairstyles were wigs, she discovered that sewing the braids together produced the correct results.  The rabbit hole of research revealed a Latin term, “acus” which was misapplied in the context of hairdressing.  The word has several meanings: a single prong hair pin or a needle and thread.

Ms. Stephens shared her research with the Journal of Roman Archaeology and was published in 2008.  The only other article published by the Journal by a non-scholar was written by a soldier who discovered an unknown Roman fort in Iraq.  Drawing on these practical experiences can break new ground in the field of research.  I am thrilled the view is changing to accept more research from unconventional sources.  Dismissing these research efforts does a disservice to the advancement of history in the modern day.

Tesla Letterhead

Nikola Tesla knew the value of his inventions, and the value of a dramatic letterhead to reflect these achievements.  A letter to JP Morgan, Esq. in 1916 commanded the attention of the famous financier and philanthropist.  The contents discussed the war and the manufacture of nitric acid through electrical processes, but the statement of the company through these images has a lasting legacy.  The page was shared by the Morgan Library and Museum, where a seemingly endless archive awaits the virtual tourist.

skylight of FLW house

The Metropolitan Museum of Art has furthered their pursuit of a virtual museum through short films at its new site, 82nd & Fifth.  Episode two offers an in depth view of the Frank Lloyd Wright house outside of Minneapolis, Minnesota.  A lake view home designed with open space far ahead of its early 20th century time frame.  Take a walk through the living area, feel the expanse of the room and the light flooding through floor to ceiling stained glass windows.  These two minute stories will be featured twice a week, expanding the vision of the Met through technology.

FLW living room

mount athos cross

The Athos Cross at the Courtland Museum is a technical virtuosity from the celebrated monastic community of Athos.  A center of miniature carving between the 16th and 18th centuries, the craft is still practiced by the monks of Athos today.  The perfect spelling of the inscriptions accompanying each scene suggests the cultured environment where the cross was produced.  Dated to the 18th century, the provenance has recently been revised because of the size, the added elements of the edges and the absence of metal, seeming to point to a 17th century date of execution.  Bequeathed to the Courtland in 1966, the cross did not go on display until 2012.  The cross is double sided, with a separate group of carvings represented on each, continuing a biblical story in chronological order.  The Courtland provides an interactive experience with this treasure, with each tiny scene filling the screen with detail and surprising depth.

raising of lazurus

A Paris apartment, untouched for 70 years, the treasures waiting like Sleeping Beauty to be discovered.  The owner, Miss de Florian, left Paris at the outbreak of WWII, never to return.  Seven decades later she passed away at the age of 91, her rent dutifully paid each month.  Her heirs left with the unenviable job of opening that door, revealing the time capsule.

Marthe de Florian

A further twist to the story is the discovery of this painting, a very important piece of art history, along with stacks of old love letters tied with ribbon.  The painting was by Giovanni Boldini, a member of the Belle Époque.  The woman in the picture is Ms. de Florian’s grandmother, Marthe de Florian, an actress and French socialite of the Belle Époque.  Despite Boldini being married, she was his muse and lover, the ribbon bound letters a testament of their relationship.

Time capsule apartment

Finding such a treasure after nearly a century is a collector’s dream, perhaps the family will publish the letters to put a final chapter to the story.

Lastly, I am excited to share a new show on Starz coming in April, Da Vinci’s Demons. The story is taken from the diaries of Da Vinci himself, and the cast of characters includes Lorenzo Medici, Giuliano Medici, Pope Sixtus IV, Clarice Orsini, Nicolo Machiavelli and Lucrezia Donati. An exciting prospect for the spring, don’t you agree?

My blog posts have diminished in the past two months due to my return to school to finish my degree. As my schedule reverted to a manageable level, I am able to continue with my first love, research and sharing information in this forum. Your patience, comments and follows are deeply appreciated.

Kind regards,

Mary Jo

outside doors of view 4

outside doors of view 3



Filed under February

Frank Lloyd Wright Home and Studio

Museum Monday

October 24, 2011

By Mary Jo Gibson


Frank Lloyd Wright, 1867-1959

On a crisp autumn morning I toured the Frank Lloyd Wright Home and Studio in Oak Park, Illinois and the surrounding neighborhood.  The monies used to purchase this property were given to Mr. Wright by Louis Sullivan, the preeminent architect of early Chicago, with the stipulation that Frank would work only for him.  But as the neighborhood grew, Mr. Wright’s ‘bootleg’ houses began to spring up, adding to the unique flavor of the area.  Containing the largest concentration of Wright-designed structures, homes in tune with their natural surroundings, the area is designated the Wright Prairie School of Architecture by the National Historic District. 

Serving as the Wright’s primary residence and studio from 1889 to 1909, the first 20 years of his career, the building contains all the early hallmarks Prairie Architecture.  Leaded glass windows, intricate wooden grill work defusing light and built-in furniture.  In all his homes, Wright designed the fireplace in a central location, saying “It comforted me to see the fire burning deep in the solid masonry of the house itself.  A feeling that came to stay.”

Mr. Wright and his wife, Catherine Tobin, raised six children in this creative environment.  The Children’s area of the house has two separate sections; the bedrooms are a subdivided room with a 3/4 wall separating the boys from the girls, then a narrow hallway that leads to the playroom; this open expanse dedicated to the smaller residents of the home truly makes the visitor feel their presence.  With a three level balcony to provide seating for plays and other entertainments, a small grand piano built into the structure in order to keep the instrument from intruding on the space, built-in bookshelves and cabinets designed for the height of children, all hallmarks of Mr. Wright’s signature homes, developed in this unique architectural incubator.

In the studio Mr. Wright and his associates developed the new American architecture known as the Prairie style.  An architectural laboratory used for the investigation and testing of concepts before sharing them with clients, and the philosophy of unified composition from exterior to interior. 

The Home and Studio has been restored to the appearance of 1909, the last year Wright lived in the home and worked in the studio.  A fabulous Ginkgo tree is part of the outdoor patio, one that has stood through history at this site, through the building of the home, the studio additions, the conversion of the building into apartments, and the final restorations.

Home in the Oak Park neighborhood

Oak Park Neighborhood

The Moore-Dugal Residence located across the street from the Wright home was completed in 1895.  It was Mr. Wright’s first independent commission in Oak Park after leaving the employ of Adler and Sullivan in 1893.  In 1922 a spectacular fire destroyed the third and fourth floors of the home.  Wright returned to Oak Park in 1923 to redesign and rebuild the home for a second time.

Moore Dugal Residence
Moore Dugal Residence
Moore Dugal Residence
Robie House

  The Robie House, located on the campus of the University of Chicago, sparked a residential architecture revolution; featuring dramatic overhangs and continuing bands of stained glass windows dissolving the barrier between interior and exterior; this home is listed by the American Institute of Architects as one of the 10 most significant structures of the 20th century.  Designed at the studio in 1908 and completed in 1910, the home offers many unique ‘firsts’ of the day.  The garage area contained a mechanic’s pit and a car wash, all outer doors along the play area have only interior handles to provide safety for the children, a special cement floor and steel beam supports were unprecedented developments for the time. The steamship design fits perfectly into the rectangular lot, and the elevated living area with their ‘walls’ of stained glass do not offer street level viewing of the occupants in the home.  Mr. Wright saved this cornerstone of American architecture from the wrecking ball twice.

The Robie House is undergoing a restoration with the updating of mechanicals, structural repairs, stabilization and conservation of the exterior of the building.  A virtual tour including period photographs with furniture long since dispersed can be found at this link.

The unique circle within a square signature of Mr. Wright can be found in the smallest detail of light design to the large planters accenting both the home studio and the Robie House.  Travelling through Chicago along Lake Shore Drive and into the museum district, new architectural accents developed in recent years continue this signature, showcasing the area’s influence by one of the world’s great architects.

I would like to thank Adam Ross for supplying me with photographs of the interior of the Wright Home and Studio, and our guides, Rachael and Joya.  I look forward to a return visit and further exploration of the Oak Park Historical District.

Photo credits: Studio Ceiling and Octagonal Library, Don Kalec.  Children’s Playroom, Hedrich/Blessing, all others author’s own.

Frank Lloyd Wright Home and Studio Tour


Filed under October