Gift of the Misses Harriet Sarah and Mary Sophia Walker
The Museum’s central rotunda is a magisterial space decorated below the dome by four large semicircular murals by the four leading painters of the American Renaissance: Elihu Vedder, Kenyon Cox, Abbott Thayer and John LaFarge. They were commissioned by McKim who believed in the unity of the arts and constituted an extremely important ensemble of architectural decoration. The original mural scheme called for each artist to paint an allegorical representation of one of the four cities perceived at the time as most central to the development of western art. Kenyon Cox portrays the seated female figure of Venice flanked on one side by a nude woman with palette and brushes representing Painting, and on the other by Mercury, the god of Commerce. The winged lion of St. Marks, a merchant ship with characteristically decorated sails and snippets of the city’s architecture, round out the tableau.
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