Stop 54. Loggia Sculpture and Reliefs



John McQuillen, Associate Curator of Printed Books and Bindings

McKim’s design for the exterior of the Morgan was austere, with a few additions of sculpture and decorative flourishes mostly reserved for the porch. The effect is even more spartan than initially proposed, since the niches in the façade were never filled with sculpture and the ones on the porch are occupied solely by marble figures purchased in 1909.

Visitors to J. Pierpont Morgan’s Library entered through a bronze gate along 36th Street and ascended a short flight of steps to the loggia. As they approached the massive doors, they stepped across slabs of rose and green marble, the only touches of color against the pink-white blocks of the building’s exterior. Looking up, they would have seen a vaulted ceiling adorned with marble carvings of notable printers’ marks.

The relief in the half-circle above the doors depicts the mark of the Aldine Press, the celebrated publishing house of the Venetian scholar and printer Aldus Manutius. It was designed by McKim, Mead & White, modeled by Andrew O’Connor, and carved by the Piccirilli brothers, New York’s most distinguished Italian immigrant stone carvers.

O’Connor, an Irish American artist, was commissioned to execute much of the Library’s exterior relief sculpture, but his contract was scaled back when he failed to progress quickly enough to satisfy McKim and Morgan. After O’Connor was relieved of his commission for the rectangular exterior reliefs, Adolph Weinman stepped in to design them.