Morgan Library facelift brings treasures to light

Mon Oct 25, 2010 1:00pm EDT
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By Walker Simon

NEW YORK (Reuters) - A $4.5 million facelift of New York's Morgan Library and Museum has brought out of the shadows and drawn from storage rare Near Eastern, Biblical and early Americana items, some exhibited for the first time.

Based on a collection amassed by Pierpont Morgan, America's top financier of a century ago. the Morgan now houses over 500,000 objects. The core of the museum, the Madison Avenue library, reopens on Saturday after extensive renovation.

"This project is the first comprehensive restoration of the building since its construction at the beginning of the last century," said Morgan director William Griswold. "And it has transformed every room."-

Modeled on Italian Renaissance villa architecture, the historic library was hamstrung, museum officials say, by too little space, uneven lighting and century-old grime.

Comparing before and after renovation photographs, the most stunning transformation is the three-tier East Room library.

Newly illuminated, gold-tooled bindings gleam from book spines. A 9th-century metal binding of the Gospels is encrusted with jewels like sapphires and emeralds.

In the vaulted ceiling, a mural pictures historical figures, framed in semicircular lunettes, interspersed with hexagonal panels, which display signs of the Zodiac.

A new exhibition room, once the librarian's office, showcases 82 Ancient Near East cylinder stone seals spanning 3,000 years of Mesopotamian history.   Continued...

<p>A view of the East Room at New York's Morgan Library and Museum is seen in this 2010 handout photo. REUTERS/Graham Haber/Handout</p>