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Academic Cosmos

last look

Ten years ago, art restoration experts from John Canning and Co., Ltd., scraped decades of grime, grease, and soot off the ceiling of the Common Room in the Hall of Graduate Studies. The Byzantine-style paintings they uncovered had been executed in the early 1930s by muralist Alfred E. Floegel, working under the direction of HGS architect James Gamble Rogers '89. Floegel had painted each “star” of the school's academic firmament; there were 31 departments at the time.

Historian Amy Kurtz '00MPhil says the paintings on the beam visible above represent religion and philosophy, with images such as a papal crown, Atlas, the lamb of God, and a Roman philosopher. Rogers was inspired, Kurtz explains, by the ceiling of the Chiaramonte Palace in Palermo, Sicily, a “condensed medieval encyclopedia” adorned with scenes from the Bible, literature, and history. But Rogers and Floegel had more modest aims. They weren’t trying to build a reference work—just a congenial place for interdisciplinary conversations.


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