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Monday, February 10, 2014

Love for Little Rhody: The RISD Museum

Check out this virtual tour of The Breakers. I live so close to Newport that I could visit just about any time it's not snowing or sleeting on the roads.

But Newport is not the only place in Rhode Island that's full of splendor and history. At the end of the twentieth century, Providence was considered the armpit of New England and there was no earthly reason for my friends and I to head south when we were in college, no, it was always north to Boston. But by the time I went to Brown for my PhD, Providence was on its way to becoming the thriving jewel it is now.

The part I'd like to highlight today is on the East Side. My husband and I recently visited the RISD (Rhode Island School of Design) Museum, and we had some trouble finding a parking spot. But it wasn't the annoyance it might have been because we zipped by all the landmarks I can only look on with love. And when we finally parked and started walking down the hill back to Benefit Street, I couldn't help but thrill a little to each one of the historical plaques. One after another, they describe the history of this part of Providence. They're well maintained and you can just about imagine yourself walking through in the nineteenth century. It seemed there was one of these plaques on every single building we walked past, not to mention the Athenaeum, one of the first library-like repositories of history. That stuff makes me giddy with joy. No wonder I wanted to write about this place in my Providence trilogy! And what better way to write on a love theme at this time of year?

Inside the RISD Museum is a whole other wonderland of creativity, beauty, and history. From the latest student exhibitions to ancient Egyptian sculptures, the collection spans just about everything I can think of when it comes to art. Their medieval collection is spine-tingling, with some imposingly gorgeous Spanish examples and a curlicued grate for sealing off chapels I wish I could have somewhere in my home.

We spent several hours trying to take it all in. Two items really stood out this time.

First, this ivory etching (not a practice I would condone today) by Goya. I love that it's Spanish and that the subjects are reading. It's tiny, but it's all Goya. The wispy clothes, the mischievous expressions. You get the feeling these boys have either never seen a book before or are getting away with some naughty reading. (Yes, those are my fingers reflecting off the protective glass.)

Keeping with the reading/writing theme, this women's writing desk knocked me out. In the background of the picture you can see some famous Bostonian Gilded Age paintings, but this desk kept me spellbound because I could vividly imagine using it. It was made to impress, with pounds of silver and other precious materials, for the World's Fair in 1893. As I picture using it to write, of course, the first thing that come to mind is whether I would be too distracted with how I looked to really write. Did they put those mirrors on ladies' writing desks to keep their minds where they should be, on the shallow things? Or is it intended to reflect light and save eyesight?

Just one of many imponderables presented by this excellent collection of art.

My husband and I met on February 13, six years ago. Enjoy this week of love!