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The Huntington: Relieve the Heat of Summer

Jul 4, 2016

IMG_2805A few weeks ago, our earthly oven rose to 106 degrees. To put it mildly, it was ghastly. By midday, if one was not in an air-conditioned setting, it was difficult to put words together and actually make comprehensible sentences. In other words, our brain was mush.

Then our dear parents came to town for Hometown Pasadena’s teenage consultant’s high school graduation, and as the Gamble House was not offering the tour that was desired by said dear parents, we headed to the Huntington.

Perfect choice.

 

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It has been ages since we’ve spent time indoors at The Huntington. We’re usually headed to the Chinese or Japanese Gardens, or gazing at the lily pond and sniffing our way through the herb garden. Several times we’ve gone just for high tea (watercress, cucumber mint, and smoked salmon tea sandwiches—enough said).

This day, though beautiful, was still hot enough to be considered a slow roast. We strolled past the new Steven S. Koblik Education and Visitor Center, Rose Hills Garden Court, Haaga Hall, and Munger Research Center…

 

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We’re a fan of the sea of wild grass across from the Library—a whimsical juxtaposition against Myron Hunt’s Mediterranean Revival design for the Huntington mansion.

 

Through the wild terrain looking towards the Huntington mansion

Through the wild terrain of deer grass (deer grass?) looking towards the Huntington mansion

 

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The Library is wondrous. Enter and we immediately encounter one of the eleven remaining copies printed on vellum of the Gutenberg Bible, dated 1455. A few paces away, we feast our eyes on the first folio edition of Shakespeare’s plays, published in 1623; a beautifully decorated manuscript of Chaucer’s Canterbury Tales, created between 1400 and 1405; letters written by Abraham Lincoln and George Washington; an autographed manuscript of Henry Thoreau’s Walden; and manuscripts by Jack London and Charles Bukowski. To see all of these items next to one another other, like companions and compatriots; the volume of talent and intellect around us—it’s profound… and magical.

 

The Library main hall

 

We adore this panorama of Los Angeles; the eastern edge of Beverly Hills to be exact…

 

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Leaving the Library…

 

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Henry and Arabella Huntington’s home, a Beaux Art mansion designed by Myron Hunt and Elmer Grey (1907-1910), reminds us of a childhood family trip—touring the Newport Mansions, and especially Cornelius Vanderbilt’s “The Breakers” and Mr. and Mrs. William K. Vanderbilt’s “Marble House.” The Gilded Age: Astonishing, exquisite, vulgar, and awesome; we were hooked on architecture from that day forward.

Entering the Huntington manor from the porte cochere, immediately on our left is the study or small library “designed as Mr. Huntington’s ‘den’ where he could meet with visitors or business callers without bringing them into the private rooms.”

 

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The man himself, Mr. Henry E. Huntington (1850-1927)…

 

Mr. Henry E. Huntington (1850-1927)

 

Though the outfit reminds us of mourning attire and her demeanor is overtly sober, we’re impressed Mrs. Huntington chose to have her portrait painted avec spectacles…

 

Mrs. Arabella Huntington (1850-1924)

Mrs. Arabella Huntington (1850-1924)

 

Crossing the hall, or to be more precise “the large peristylar loggia,” we enter the large library, which is divine. To our psyche, walls of books amounts to heaven on earth. The large library is followed by a small drawing room, a larger drawing room, a surprisingly intimate dining room, an area tucked behind the back stairs for—what?—emergency heavenly guidance, and finally a 2,900 square foot hall that was added in 1934, currently called the Thornton Portrait Gallery.

 

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Here one may view Thomas Gainsborough’s “celebrated” Blue Boy and Thomas Lawrence’s Pinkie. The other portraits surprise us with the quality of expression (from winsome to haughty), and the dramatic lighting and headwear put us in our plebeian place.

 

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Mrs. Ralph Willett by George Romney (1734-1802)

 

Isabella Marchioness of Hertford, circa 1789, by John Hoppner

Isabella Marchioness of Hertford, circa 1789, by John Hoppner

 

Diana Sackville "dolled up as Viscountess Crosbie" in a "ravishing" Reynolds portrait (art critic Christopher Knight/LATimes blog)

Diana Sackville “dolled up as Viscountess Crosbie” in a “ravishing” Reynolds portrait, according to art critic Christopher Knight at LA Times blog (2012)

 

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Thomas Gainsborough’s Blue Boy

 

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Pinkie

 

Past the back stairs…

 

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… is this…

 

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… and for good measure, a model of Archbishop Tillotson…

 

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So as temperatures rise again into the triple digits, and if inlay, tapestry, carving, and excess tickle your fancy, or rare books and history keep you enthralled, we highly recommend spending some hours this summer in the cool indoors of the Huntington Library and Art Gallery.

 

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The Huntington Library, Art Collections, and Botanical Gardens
1151 Oxford Rd., San Marino 91108
Hours: Wednesday-Monday, 10:30 a.m.-4:30 p.m.; closed Tuesday
Admission: $23, adults; $19, seniors and students; $10, youth (4-11)
Ph: 1.626.405.2100
For complete details, visit Huntington.org

 

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