Boston Public Library is the first free to all library in USA. It was established in 1848 and this present building was completed in 1895.
Famous Boston architect Charles Follen McKim designed it.
McKim called the Library built in the Renaissance Revival style a “palace for the people” when it opened in 1895.
At the entrance on either sides are two statues representing art holding a palette and brush( right) and science holding a globe( left).
These allegorical statues were made by Bela Pratt and installed in 1912 at the entrance to the library.
It is built from pale pink granite, with perfect classical proportions.
The vaulted ceiling has name of 30 prominent Bostonians.
The staircase hall is formed of yellow Siena marble
On either side of the staircase are the two lions that memorialize two Massachusetts volunteer infantries in the Civil War: the Second and the Twentieth.
On the second floor all around are murals by French painter Pierre Puvis de Chavannes, one of the greatest muralists of the 19th century. This was the only work he did outside France and Puvis never saw the work installed. “He painted his library panels on Belgian linen in Paris and shipped them to Boston for installation in 1895-96 using the marouflage technique, binding the canvases to their plaster niches with a paste of lead white and linseed oil. With their harmonious palette, which the artist chose from referencing a sample of the staircase’s Siena marble, the paintings integrate seamlessly into their architectural surround.”
On the left of the staircase we have Philosophy with 2 figures shown in conversation, reading a bound codex.
Center is Astronomy with the Chaldean Shepherds, regarding the stars.
At far right History is represented in a red robe calling the spirits of the past from Caves below
The three panels on the right panels depict the 3 poetries. On the left side is Pastoral Poetry with Virgil.
At the center is Dramatic Poetry with Aeschylus in the foreground, backed by sea nymphs, the Oceanides.
On the right is Epic Poetry with Homer crowned by the Iliad and Odessey
Chemistry on left of the hall has a fairy wave her wand over elements undergoing ‘mysterious change’ watched closely by crouching spirits
Physics mural has modern technology with Telegraph wire bearing what painter Puvis de Chavannes called “The wondrous agency of Electricity”
Two figures r shown traveling across the wires representing communication
The one above has good news, below bad news
The long panel in front of Bates hall isThe Muses of Inspiration Hail the spirit, the messenger of light.
The 9 muses in white dress against a pastoral background of field& sea welcome the Spirit of Enlightenment represented by a small figure on top of hall door
the Abbey room or holding room ( waiting room for delivery of books) with the Quest and achievement of the Holy Grail painted by Edwin Austin Abbey installed 1895-1902
The highlight of the library is the John Singer Sargent murals. The great American painter considered them his most important work, created over a period of 30 years. Titled “The Triumph of Religion” and painted in the style of Italian Renaissance frescos, the murals depict the development of world religions and are very different from his society portraits that you’ll see in the Museum of Fine Arts.
Frieze of Prophets
Visible in this eastern portion of the Pagan Gods arch is Astarte, the goddess of sensuality enrobed in swaths of light blue and adorned with jewels rendered in glass and metal relief.
Dogma of the Redemption; Trinity and Crucifix, Frieze of Angels
This panel was left incomplete.
“Following the 1919 installation of images of Synagogue and Church on the hall’s east wall, a controversy erupted around the depiction of Synagogue, with legions calling the panel defamatory to Judaism and demanding its removal. Sargent insisted that he had no intention for the painting to carry this message, but nevertheless found his project enveloped by a public storm. He never completed the final, central panel along the east wall, intended to illustrate the Sermon on the Mount, before he passed away in 1925; the panel remains blank to this day.”
The Reading Room
This figure of the girl and the Swan was outside what used to be the Children ‘s Room
“Charles Follen McKim designed the Central Library’s courtyard after that of the Palazzo della Cancelleria in Rome. Its covered arcade surrounds an open plaza skirted by white marble and low greenery, at the center of which lies a pool and fountain.
The keynote of the courtyard is arguably the bronze statue of Bacchante and Infant Faun by Frederick MacMonnies, gifted to the library by McKim himself. When she was unveiled in 1896, Bacchante caused a frenzy among Bostonians, who were outraged by her apparent embrace of drinking (she clasps a symbolic bunch of grapes in her outstretched hand), debauchery (as a nude, dancing figure), and worst of all, her subjecting the infant held in her left arm to this behavior. The community clamored for her removal, and in 1897, McKim transferred his gift to the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York.
Nearly a century later, the city commissioned a cast of the Boston Museum of Fine Art’s copy of the original Bacchante, returning her to her original location as part of the McKim building restoration project in the 1990s.”