California Palace of the Legion of Honor

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California Palace of the Legion of Honor
The California Palace of the Legion of Honor (often abbreviated to simply Legion of Honor by locals) is a fine art museum in San Francisco, California. The name is used both for the museum collection and for the building in which it is housed.

The Legion of Honor was the gift of Alma de Bretteville Spreckels, wife of the sugar magnate and Thoroughbred racehorse owner/breeder Adolph B. Spreckels. The building is a three-quarters scale imitation of the Palais de la Légion d'Honneur also known as the Hôtel de Salm in Paris by George Applegarth and H. Guillaume. It was completed in 1924. The museum building occupies an elevated site in Lincoln Park in the northwest of the city, with views over the Golden Gate Bridge. Most of the surrounding Lincoln Park Golf Course is on the site of a potter's field called the "Golden Gate Cemetery" that the City had bought in 1867. The cemetery was closed in 1908 and the bodies were relocated to Colma. During seismic retrofitting in the 1990s, however, coffins and skeletal remains were unearthed. The plaza and fountain in front of the Palace of the Legion of Honor is the western terminus of the Lincoln Highway, the first road across America. The terminus marker and an interpretive plaque are located in the southwest corner of the plaza and fountain, just to the left of the Palace.

The Legion of Honor displays a collection spanning more than 6,000 years of ancient and European art and houses the Achenbach Foundation for Graphic Arts in a neoclassical building overlooking Lincoln Park and the Golden Gate Bridge. Ancient Art The Ancient Art collection has been an integral part of both Fine Arts Museums since they were founded. M.H. de Young and Alma Speckles, the founders of the museums, furnished their institutions with a variety of ancient objects. The works they brought to their collections, and those that have been added over the years, cover broad geographical and chronological ranges within the ancient Mediterranean basin"primarily Egypt, the Near East, Greece, the Aegean Islands, Etruria, and Rome. The earliest pieces date to the fourth millennium B.C. and the latest to early Christian, Sasanian, and early Islamic periods, through the 14th century A.D.”“”“a period of almost 6,000 years of art. It is a relatively small collection, under 1,400 objects, containing a number of rare works of high quality and importance that form the basis for an introduction to the art of the cultures represented. They provide, in a coherent, aesthetically pleasing manner, splendid examples of the art of early civilizations. The collection also provides the foundation for the understanding of Western art and the procession of cultures through the ages. It illustrates the origins of later European and American art in the Museum’s collection in form, iconography, and materials by displaying sculpture, pottery, glass, decorative art, and painting. The main strength of the collection lies in Greek vase painting, where over 100 examples represent most periods of Greek art from the prehistoric to the end of the classical age. Among the most important objects are nine carved ivory plaques and a palace wall relief from the 9th"7th-centuries B.C. Assyrian site of Nimrud, which epitomizes a high point in the history of Ancient Near Eastern art and have few equals in museum collections worldwide. The most recent acquisitions include an exquisitely carved Persian sculpture of an Offering Bearer (ca. 490”“470 B.C.) from the fabled ancient site of Persepolis, which in style and form connects ancient Near Eastern art with the classical world. Exhibitions add visibility to the permanent collection and Ancient Art shows have had wide appeal bringing in hundreds of thousands of visitors. The Department has organized and mounted world-renowned exhibitions that secure the Museum’s international reputation for scholarly excellence. Some of these enabled the Museum to foster and secure relationships with foreign cultural organizations, especially those in Europe and the Middle East. European Art The museum contains a representative collection of European art, the largest portion of which is French. Its most distinguished collection is of sculpture by Auguste Rodin. Casts of some of his most famous works are on display, including one of The Thinker in the Court of Honor. However there are individual works by many other artists, including François Boucher, Rembrandt, Gainsborough, David, El Greco, Rubens, and many of the Impressionists and post-Impressionists" Degas, Renoir, Monet, Pissarro, Seurat, Cézanne and others. There are also representative works by key twentieth century figures such as Braque and Picasso, and works of contemporary artists like Gottfried Helnwein and Robert Crumb. Collection Highlights
  • St. Francis Venerating the Crucifix. El Greco, 1595
  • St. John the Baptist. El Greco, 1600
  • The Tribute Money. Peter Paul Rubens, 1612
  • The Age of Bronze. Auguste Rodin, 1875
  • Trotting Horse. Edgar Degas, 1881
  • The Kiss. Auguste Rodin, 1884
  • The Grand Canal. Claude Monet, 1908
  • Waterlilies. Claude Monet, 1914
Achenbach Foundation for Graphic Arts Mr. and Mrs. Moore S. Achenbach created the Achenbach Foundation for Graphic Arts in 1948, giving their personal collection of works on paper to the city of San Francisco. Over the 50 years previous, Mr. Achenbach strove to build a collection that systematically illustrated the entire development of the graphic arts, and in this pursuit he built a collection of reputedly more than 25,000 graphic works. When he donated it to the city, the collection was briefly placed in the San Francisco Public Library, but in 1950 it was moved to the Legion of Honor, where it remains to this day. This enormous collection became the foundation for the museum’s department of works on paper, which has the distinction of being the largest collection of works of art on paper in the western United States. Today the department’s holdings number more than 90,000 and cover the period from the end of the 15th century to the present time. Thanks to the Achenbach’s endowment bequest and gifts of other donors, the collection now consists of Old Master and 19th-century prints and drawings, Japanese prints, Indian miniatures, photography, modern and contemporary graphics, and artists’ books. The Achenbach Foundation for Graphic Arts and the collections of works on paper of the Fine Arts Museums of San Francisco receive financial support for the department’s exhibitions, programs, and acquisitions from the Achenbach Graphic Arts Council, a member council of the Fine Arts Museums of San Francisco.

Symphonic organ
In 1924 John D. Spreckels commissioned the Ernest M. Skinner Company of Boston to build the symphonic organ. The museum organ, which is housed inside the museum above the main galleries, has 4 manuals and pedals, 7 divisions, 63 ranks, with a total of 4,526 pipes. Symphonic music is especially effective on the museum organ with its battery of pneumatically-operated percussion instruments and set of tubular chimes. A thunder pedal is used for the musical representation of storms. All together, the organ comprises one Great Organ, a Swell Organ, a Choir Organ featuring a 16 foot Contra Dulciana, Choir Organ Echo, a Solo Organ, Solo Organ Echo, an Arch Organ outfitted with 8 foot Arch Clarion, a 64 foot Gravissima and a 32 foot Bourdon Profunda, in addition to the final Traps that were enclosed in the Choir: Bass drum, castanets, Chinese block, crash cymbal, gong snare drum (f), snare drum (ff), and a tambourine triangle. Proponents have acclaimed that an instrument that is capable of producing these sounds, (similar to that of an orchestra), is a work of art, no matter its outright visual appeal. The organ's console, made of mahogany, ivory, and ebony, is located in the A.B. and Alma de Bretteville Spreckels Rodin Gallery. The apse of the gallery is canvas, painted to look like marble in order to allow the organ to "speak" through the dome. The frieze over the main entrance to the museum is made of plaster and can be opened so that the music can be heard in the Court of Honor also containing ten large tubular chimes and a heroic fanfare register concealed behind doors that can be opened during performances. The museum hosts a weekly organ recital from 4:00-5:00pm every Saturday and Sunday.

Film Appearance
  • The Palace is seen in the Alfred Hitchcock movie Vertigo (1958) when Scottie follows Madeleine Elster to the museum, where she stares at one painting for a considerable time.
  • The Palace appears in the first Armistead Maupin Tales of the City books and mini-series. The character of Mary Ann Singleton (played by Laura Linney) arranges to meet her neighbor Norman Neal Williams (played by Stanley DeSantis) at the museum, where he meets his fate.


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