I must take exception to some of William Wilson's comments about Catherine's excesses. He fails to realize that the history of civilization is a pageant of excesses--some excesses that challenged, pushed and pressed men to produce and achieve some mastery of their talents and artistry. One can look at the renowned buildings of Europe, the cathedrals, the palaces, the Egyptian pyramids, the Sphinx, the Great Wall of China, the Acropolis and marble statues of Greece. Each country has its marvels that repay their costs in excess of their original outlay.
Poverty, squalor and decay unfortunately will always be a part of humanity. However ostentatious or wrong-headed--the jewel encrusted timepieces, the churches' gilt screens, the ruby barnacled chalices or the sculpted icons made of repousse gold sheets that Wilson mentions--people will pay over and over again to see them and be dazzled by them.
It is in this fashion that these works continue to help pay for the poor. These objects have furnished jobs for centuries and at least made nations and people feel rich.
S. J. FALOTICO