Archive for the ‘The Art’ Category

Museum Quality Art
Glass:Famous artist John LaFarge created the “Old Philosopher” stained glass window in the Richardson Building as a memorial to Thomas Crane. Made up of more than 1000 pieces of glass and valued at more than half a million dollars, the 30 by 10 inch panel is considered a masterpiece. At the left of the fireplace is another LaFarge window, “Angel at the Tomb,” given in memory of Thomas Crane’s son, Benjamin Franklin Crane.

The worst moment in the entire library expansion project came the day that library officials discovered that a rare stained glass window by famed artist John LaFarge-valued at $500,000–had been stolen.

“I felt my heart stop!” Library Director Ann McLaughlin recalls of the moment when she realized that the window was missing from its sash. “I was horrified!”

McLaughlin was even more upset when a thorough search of the library failed to turn up the 30 by 10 inch panel that depicts a seated man reading a book. Called The Old Philosopher, and considered to be one of LaFarge’s finest works, the window had been on display in the original library since 1882.

For one week, the bad news just kept coming: the theft had probably gone undetected for several months because the Old Philosopher window had been hidden from casual sight by plywood during the renovation of the Richardson building; local police and the FBI had no promising leads on such a cold trail; the library was criticized for not having a better security system; art historians bemoaned the loss of a masterpiece.

Library Director Ann McLaughlin But on May 9, 2001, in a surprise ending more befitting a Nancy Drew mystery than real life, McLaughlin received an anonymous phone call from a man with a gruff voice: “Write this down! Willow Street, under the Curtis Tomb. You’ll find your window.”

First McLaughlin called the police and FBI. Then she telephoned her sister, who was convinced that the caller was directing McLaughlin to Mount Wollaston Cemetery, where the lanes are all named after trees.

Her sister’s hunch was right. They found the window wrapped in a black plastic trash bag stuffed under the grating of the tomb. “We grabbed it!” says McLaughlin.

“I put it on my sister’s lap and drove away.”

The Old Philosopher is not the only LaFarge window at the library to disappear mysteriously and then reemerge. Back in 1998, when library staff was preparing for the construction of the CBT addition, they discovered a long-lost panel that depicts the Greek symbol alpha, tucked into a crate of old clear windows in a library supply closet.

Missing since 1938, the stained glass window matches a similar library window that is decorated with the Greek symbol omega. Now that all three windows are accounted for, they are displayed as LaFarge intended, with the alpha and omega panels flanking the old philosopher panel as symbols of the endlessness of man’s quest for knowledge.

The man who designed the newest addition to the Thomas Crane Library had $16 million dollars to work with. But even with that budget, Richard Bertman says you simply can’t buy the kind of ornamentation and sculpture that grace both the original H.H. Richardson library building or the 1939 addition known as the Coletti building.

“We couldn’t do what Coletti did,” Bertman says, looking up at the bas-relief sculptures of riveters, granite cutters, and the two gracefully entwined cranes that decorate the
pediments of the Coletti Building. All three panels are the work of famous American sculptor and longtime Quincy resident Joseph A. Coletti, whose brothers Paul and Carroll designed the Coletti addition.

Born in Italy in 1898, Coletti’s family moved to Quincy when he was 2 years old. Joseph Coletti attended Quincy’s public schools, the Massachusetts School of Design, Northeastern University, and Harvard.

Coletti died in 1973, but his award-winning work can still be seen in museums, as well as in churches and public buildings, like the ceiling of the Boston Public Library and the rotunda of the Boston Museum of Fine Arts.

Paul Coletti’s daughter in law, Alicia Coletti is a Library Trustee and a member of the Friends.

“I remember how proud he was of that library,” says Alicia. “I stand in the atrium and I look to the left and I see the wall of the Coletti building” that now stands as one entire side of the atrium. “Richard Bertman did a wonderful job of incorporating both old and new parts of the Library.”

The CBT addition is 56,000 square feet. The exterior is made of red slate, granite, brick, and cast stone that simulates brownstone. The exterior metal balconies, arches, and trim are designed to recall and repeat similar shapes and features from the Coletti buildings. Interior building materials include makore woodwork, Indian slate floors, and granite topped desks.


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