Saturday, January 27, 2007

Posting from Washington, DC

Steve and I have had two fabulous days in our favorite city, Washington, DC. I'm so glad we came. We'd both thought that trips would be far and few between after Mathias graduated from the Kirov (or UBA as it was called for four of the six years). I'd spent a week chaperoning a bunch of ballet dancers, including Mathias of course, during spring break. I visited all my favorite places, just to say good-bye. It was so sad. I figured I'd mourn the loss of our regular trips and go into "museum" withdrawal. That hasn't been the case, thankfully.

This trip has, however, been entirely different. There's been no ballet but plenty of books. Though Steve had been to Quinn Auction House, I never had been. We drove directly there on Thursday for the "shelf lot" book auction. It was fantastic. All the shelves are numbered. Each shelf is sold as a single "lot". Most were grouped by subject but many were listed as "miscellany". There were lots of architecture, modern art, Mayan culture, ceramics, old auction catalogues, Civil War, birds, toys, Bibles, leather bound, Shakespeare, theater, pottery, European history, railroad, poetry, furniture, textiles, carpets, heraldry, hardbound fiction, etc. Most of the volumes were new, hard back, in great condition, and were arranged in desirable groups. It was easy to lose oneself in the process of looking at the selections. It was easy to forget the lots in which one might be interested. Taking notes was a MUST. There were several lots with very, very old volumes, 1600s and 1700s. Just the feel of their paper and worn covers made me want them.

The auction itself was quite rapid with over sixty lots selling in under an hour. Everyone was seated in another room. The auctioneer simply called out the shelf number and started the quick bidding process. Steve and I were unsuccessful on almost all the lots we wanted. We sat on a nice oriental rug in the back of the room sipping a glass of provided red wine between us. We laughed a lot. Many of the lots we wanted went into the hundreds of dollars. We certainly could pick the best books! Amazingly, we got two lots, both for less than we were willing to have paid. One lot includes the future source material for my upcoming "fantasy maps". Soon, I'll have the Archeology Project back home and will be ready to continue bring it to a fuller life.

On Friday, we went to the American Museum/Portrait Gallery and spent the entire day. It was wonderful just wandering around all three floors. The collection is vast and very interesting. Happily, we found some of our favorite paintings. We'd fallen in love with Thayer's Virgin Enthroned and his Stevenson's Monument (an angel) while they'd hung for years in the Renwick. We had no idea where they'd gone--and so many others from that Grand Salon at the top of the red carpeted stairs. Now we know. They're in the American Museum. I can't wait to tell Mathias. He, too, missed them last spring. Sure, Caitlin's American Indians are nice....but we preferred the variety and great beauty of these other works. It was especially nice to be so close to them. Hanging in the Renwick, they'd all been far overhead.

In a grand foyer on the second floor is a most amazing mixed media piece called MVSEVM by a guy named something Beck. There was a video about the construction. I will research this more later. It was absolutely fantastic. I thought museum's inspired me! This is truly a remarkable obsession.

We also enjoyed the presidential portraits, the portrait competition (51 pieces were selected from a jurying process that started with over 4000), and the exhibition on Josephine Baker. Later, we bought wonderful, inexpensive wine at Trader Joe's and had dinner in our Towne Place suite room.

Today, we went to Quinn's other auction, the regular event with prints (loose and framed) sold before furniture, carpets, china, silver, etc. We were terribly interested in the several lots of Audubon birds. Most lots had ten each. They were put up early in the sale, but there was a problem. The auctioneers (a family business) were all very, very fact, embarrassed. The estate from which these prints came had reservations about the sale just last night. Very high minimum bids were imposed. This sale was being simultaneously held on eBay and had a bank of employees minding various telephone bidders. Most of the Audubon lots did not come close to the newly required minimum bid. Some lots sold. One lot, with fifteen songbirds, even became ours! We also bought the Denton fish; which we really wanted. Amazingly, we were able to acquire a lot of nicely colored, early etchings. We were quite happy.

To celebrate, we took the metro to DuPont Circle, had lunch at a newly opened Johnny Rocket, and went to the Phillips Collection. Later, we visited the Catholic Basilica to see the newly mosaiced dome over part of the center aisle.

Tomorrow we head back home. It's been grand here. I hope we can continue to come, for both books and art!

No comments: