Wednesday, March 20, 2019

seen at the Morgan

The Tolkien exhibit at the Morgan Library was open to a free viewing by anyone attending the Saturday conference for an hour before it started, but I decided to avoid the crowds and the rush by coming in on Thursday. Not only was the exhibit smaller and hence more easily grasped than the monumental one in the Bodleian, it was also better lit. It occupies the single exhibit room up on the second floor of the building. I spent a couple hours wandering around it, taking it all in.

At one point a docent tour came in at the start of the exhibit, and I tagged along to hear what it would say. Persistent small factual errors were hilarious but insignificant, so I didn't attempt to correct them, not even the repeated references to Tolkien's guardian as "Father Brown," which is most famously the name of a G.K. Chesterton fictional character. It was particularly strange to get the name wrong in the Morgan Library, as that was in fact his name.

The Morgan of the library, though - no relation - was the famous financier J.P. Morgan, who had the original wing of this building built to house a sumptuous office where he could display and gloat at his treasured paintings and rare books. The office is now open for viewing, and made a better sight than the overly precious modern art in the other new display galleries. The office is lined with valuable Italian Renaissance paintings, interspersed with two of J.P. glaring down at himself. "I celebrate myself, and sing myself," I murmured, quoting Whitman, as I gazed upon this spectacle. To the side, now open for all to see, is the hidden vault, the size of Imelda Marcos's closet, where J.P. kept his most valuable treasures to gloat on in private.

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