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Housing the New RomansArchitectural Reception and Classical Style in the Modern World$
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Katharine T. von Stackelberg and Elizabeth Macaulay-Lewis

Print publication date: 2017

Print ISBN-13: 9780190272333

Published to Oxford Scholarship Online: July 2017

DOI: 10.1093/acprof:oso/9780190272333.001.0001

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The Impossible Exedra

The Impossible Exedra

Engineering Contemplation and Conviviality in Turn-of-the-Century America

Chapter:
(p.153) Chapter 5 The Impossible Exedra
Source:
Housing the New Romans
Author(s):

Melody Barnett Deusner

Publisher:
Oxford University Press
DOI:10.1093/acprof:oso/9780190272333.003.0006

The sudden appearance and proliferation of Greco-Roman exedrae (and their domestic derivations) in American parks and homes at the close of the nineteenth century marks a particularly revealing collision between the Classical past and the present, the private and the public, the ideal and the startlingly real. In its various manifestations as house, street, and garden furniture, the somber and pedigreed form of the exedra encouraged dignified bodily management, quiet contemplation, and polite socialization, but also proved dismayingly susceptible to unconstrained lounging, sprawling, loitering, and unsolicited encounters between strangers. This essay considers the Classical bench as studio furniture and compositional device for artists, such as Thomas Wilmer Dewing and Augustus Saint-Gaudens. Then, venturing into the lavishly decorated mansions inspired by these bohemian haunts, it examines custom-built curved settees that extended painted Classical fantasies into the lived social spaces of the nation’s financial elite. Finally, it analyzes the deployment of marble and granite exedrae in commemorative monumental public spaces in New York’s Herald Square, Chicago’s Lincoln Park, and Washington, DC, as case studies that extend this investigation to discuss the public exedra as a fully national phenomenon.

Keywords:   Neo-Antique, Neoclassical, exedra, Gilded Age, New York, Augustus Saint-Gaudens, David Glasgow Farragut

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