May 25, 2008
Just the facts Getting in: The Huntington Library, Art Collections and Botanical Gardens opened to the public in 1928. Admission was free. It started charging admission 13 years ago. Today the cost is $15 (weekdays), $20 (weekends and holidays). Hours: 10:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. daily (except Tuesdays).
The beginning: Completed in 1911, the Beaux-Arts mansion (now the Huntington Art Gallery), was designed by architect Myron Hunt and cost $454,000.
The San Marino property comprises 207 acres, of which 120 are botanical gardens. Also on the grounds are four residences and a mausoleum where Henry and Arabella Huntington are laid to rest. It was designed by John Russell Pope as a precursor to the Jefferson Memorial in Washington, D.C.
Size: More than 500,000 visitors annually; 300 employees.
Notable pieces at the Huntington Library: The Ellesmere manuscript of Chaucer's "Canterbury Tales," a Gutenberg Bible, the double-elephant folio edition of Audubon's "The Birds of America" and a collection of the early editions of Shakespeare.
An oddity: One of the most unusual artworks on display is a coconut. The 16th century "coconut cup" is a drinking vessel mounted in silver, intricately engraved and bearing the royal monogram of Queen Elizabeth I.
Art in numbers: Works of art on display: 1,200. The entire European art collection: 22,740. The entire American art collection: 9,050.
Boys and girls: The most popular artworks are Thomas Gainsborough's"The Blue Boy" and Thomas Lawrence's "Pinkie." It's been said that together "Blue Boy" and "Pinkie" initiated the popularization of the color blue for boys and pink for girls. The paintings really have nothing to do with one another; they were painted more than two decades apart ("Blue Boy" circa 1770 and "Pinkie" in 1794).
"The Unaccompanied Camera: Across the United States in the Fifties, 1950-1961," 50 black and white photographs by Arnold Chanin; "Zenobia in Chains," a marble sculpture by Harriet Hosmer (1859); and Charles Lock Eastlake's "Bookcase," ca. 1867
The renovation: Cost: $20 million. Architect: Bert England, Earl Corp., Irwindale. Preservation architect: Stephen Farneth, Architectural Resources Group, San Francisco.
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