Last Sunday, meandering back from lunch with George, he and I took a short-cut through Meridian Hill Park. As we caught-up, I paused to get a photograph of Meridian Hill’s Joan of Arc statue, the lone female equestrian sculpture in Washington, D.C. Paul Dubois’ life-size bronze figure depicts Joan, decked-out in complete body armor, gazing towards the heavens as she urges her charger ahead. Held aloft in her left hand there’s a sword. Taken in 1978, Joan's sword wasn't restored until three decades later in 2011.
Gifted by Le Lyceum Société des Femmes de France to the women of the United States of America, the effigy is a reproduction of a bronze located outside Notre-Dame de Reims cathedral. An engraving on the pedestal reads:
AUX FEMMES D'AMERIQUE
LES FEMMES DE FRANCE
A NEW YORK
LE 6 January 1922
Dedicated January 6, 1922, guests at the ceremony included First Lady Florence Harding and Mme. Elise Richards Jusserand, the American-born wife of France’s ambassador to the U.S.
To read more about Joan of Arc (Dubois), check-out:
Joan of Arc (Dubois)
Places-Meridian Hill Park (U.S. National Park Service)
Then and Now: Joan of Arc Statue in Meridian Hill Park
President, Mrs Harding and Secretary of War, Weeks attend the unveiling of a statue of Jeanne d'Arc at Meridian Hill Park
This Saturday, my friend George (of Bricktop podcast and Mason Dixie Biscuit Co. fame) and I drove out to Mount Olivet Cemetery; I wanted to photograph Mary Surratt’s grave. On July 7, 1865, Mary was bestowed the unlucky distinction of becoming the first woman executed by the U.S. government. She received this “honor” for her reputed participation in the conspiracy to assassinate President Lincoln.
Mary was born on a tobacco plantation in southern Maryland; her birth year is alternately cited as 1820 and 1823. She married John Harrison Surratt, and raised three children-Isaac, Elizabeth Susanna “Anna,” and John, Jr. Mary became a widow after John, a heavy drinker, collapsed from a stroke and died. Facing increasing debt, she rented out the family’s Maryland farm and tavern, and relocated to Washington, D.C.
Several weeks ago, I visited Hillwood, the sumptuous, sprawling estate of Marjorie Merriweather Post. Marjorie wasn't just the spectacularly rich heiress to Postum Cereal Company (now General Foods Corporation), but a talented businesswoman, too. During her lifetime, she became the wealthiest broad in America, worth a mindboggling $250 mil.
The mountain of Benjamins she inherited and worked to grow permitted Marjorie to inhabit a world of Marie Antoinette-style extravagance. She erected and revamped palatial homes like Mar-A-Lago in Palm Beach, Florida and Hillwood in Washington, D.C. She toured the globe on her yacht Sea Cloud, once the largest private ship in the world, and her jet, Merriweather. Even Marjorie’s convoy of limousines was customized to accommodate her fabulously large hats!
Nevertheless, Marjorie’s true passion was her assemblage of glittering artistic treasures, particularly from imperial Russia. During the 1930s, the Soviet Union, needing money to industrialize, had a fire-sale on Romanov-era swag. Marjorie made out like a glamorously-attired bandit. She accumulated a sizable collection of French paintings, textiles, and furnishings, too.
But, Marjorie’s riches weren't meant be squirreled away; after she passed-away in 1973, Hillwood became a decorative arts museum. Check-out my shots of Hillwood Estate, Museum & Gardens on Facebook; it’s exquisite. Opulence, she has it.
Here’s a short video about Marjorie’s life from Biography Channel.
For more on Marjorie Merriweather Post and Hillwood Estate, Museum & Gardens, visit:
Hillwood Estate, Museum and Garden: Where Fabulous Lives
This May, we brought our students to the National Gallery of Art to see Leonardo da Vinci’s portrait of Ginevra de' Benci; his only painting on display in the Americas. Though just as captivating as the Mona Lisa, scholars understand more about Ginevra than Leonardo’s most legendary subject. Born around 1457 or 1458, she was a member of the prosperous and cultured Benci family of Florence, Italy. Ginevra herself was a celebrated poet, though none of her work survives.
Leonardo painted Ginevra’s likeness in 1474, perhaps to commemorate her marriage to Luigi di Bernardo Niccolini; she was 16 years old, and Leonardo just 22! The front of the portrait shows her seated before a juniper (ginepro in Italian), supposedly a pun on her name. On the reverse (it’s double-sided!) is a second juniper twig encircled by a garland of laurel and palm and the Latin inscription VIRTVTEM FORMA DECORAT (Beauty Adorns Virtue). Watch the YouTube video below for some commentary on the symbols’ possible connotations and unlikely “scandal” regarding them.
It’s a gorgeous piece of art (and you can actually see Leonardo’s fingerprint in the branches) celebrating a fascinating woman. Check it out if you're in DC!
Visit NGAKids for a close-up of Leonardo’s fingerprint.
This Memorial Day weekend, a friend and I trekked out to Rockville, Maryland to Old St. Mary's Church and Cemetery to see Zelda and F. Scott Fitzgerald’s grave. They share a headstone inscribed with the words, "So we beat on, boats against the current borne back ceaselessly into the past," the last sentence of The Great Gatsby.
People who've visited have left tons of mementos-flowers, coins (mostly pennies), copies of his books, and movie ticket stubs. But what I thought was most…bizarre, confusing, f-ed up, was that so many people left booze!
I've meant to visit the Rock Creek Cemetery near the Petworth neighborhood in Washington, D.C. since last year; over Memorial Day weekend, I made the trek with a friend. Rock Creek boast illustrious “residents” like author Upton Sinclair, and Alice Warfield Allen, mother of Duchess of Windsor, Wallis Simpson. But I’d come to see Washington matriarch and podcast subject, Alice Roosevelt Longworth. She’s buried there beside her daughter Paulina Sturm. I was delighted to see that someone had left a flag and picture of Alice at her grave. It’s cool that despite dying over three decades ago, people continue to admire that sassy, old broad!
The History Bitch
Podcaster, tea aficionado, Anglophile, 'Game of Thrones' enthusiast.