Emory Report

March 2, 1998

 Volume 50, No. 23

Eureka! Long-lost frieze found
in Candler Library attic

On a recent reconnaissance mission to the attic of Candler Library, library staff members Ginger Cain, Charles Forrest, John Klingler and Valerie Watkins discovered a long-lost and long-forgotten plaster frieze that once hung from Candler's mezzanine level overlooking the third-floor lobby.

The idea for the trek came from a picture in the recent construction exhibit mounted in Woodruff's Schatten Gallery. Cain, University archivist, noted the plaster frieze in the photo and showed it to Watkins, the gallery's director. They mentioned it to Libraries Planning and Budget Director Forrest, who recalled having seen some mysterious objects in the Candler attic during his time in the building and who was interested in poking around.

So the four staffers ventured into the dark and dusty attic and found 15 crates of the frieze. Later, on a mission to photograph and document the crates and their grim storage environment, Ann Frellsen and Nova Ibe of the library's Conservation Department discovered 11 more crates in an even harder-to-reach location.

All since have been transferred to a more hospitable environment by staff members who assisted in the rescue effort while photographer Richard Gess documented the removal. The 26 sections were taken to Woodruff Library for storage, repair and possible display. A much-needed restoration would include repairing the various cracks, chips and environmental damage found after 40 years of storage in its dark quarters and removal from the walls of Candler. The library staff hope to return the restored frieze to Candler Library as a part of its eventual renovation.

Libraries Director Joan Gotwals shared the enthusiasm for the find. "The rediscovery of this frieze connects us with an important part of our past," she said. "We look forward to the opportunity to restore the frieze and put it back in public view."

The third-floor Candler lobby area was originally known as the "delivery room" because it held the circulation desk, where items were "delivered" to patrons as they checked them out. In fact, the circulation desk was called the "delivery desk" when Candler Library opened in 1926. Cain believes the frieze was removed from the walls and crated when renovations to Candler were made from 1955 to 1957.

The plaster frieze, "The Triumph of Alexander," is by neoclassical Danish sculptor Bertel Thorwaldsen (1770-1844) and was initially commissioned by the Academy of France at Rome for the visit of the emperor Napoleon (the new Alexander) to Italy in 1812. Thorwaldsen had only three months to create and finish his work to decorate one of the largest halls of Rome's Palace of the Quirinal, where Napoleon intended to live. Although he was asked to create a bas-relief, the subject of his work was left up to him, and he chose the triumphal entry of Alexander into Babylon. In the spirit of Renaissance artists, Thorwaldsen included his own image standing near a palm tree in the last section of the frieze.

Library staff are still trying to find out how the plaster copy came to be cast and installed in Candler Library. "The Candler frieze is a fascinating piece of Emory's history and something that is unique to the library," Cain said. "We owe those who worked on the renovations beginning in 1955 a big debt of gratitude for having the vision and the patience to salvage the frieze as they did. The frieze could easily have become part of 'vanishing Emory,' something that had disappeared forever. Instead, it has resurfaced and can become part of the library's future as well as its past."

-Nancy Brooks

This article first appeared in General News, the general libraries newsletter.

Return to March 2, 1998 Contents Page