Friday, October 16, 2009
The Sculptor's House
Erastus Dow Palmer is my favorite artist and no doubt a subject I'll be posting more about in the future. The gallery of his sculptures is, for me, the highlight of the collections at the Albany Institute of History & Art (not that I don't love the mummies there, too) and more than worth the price of admission.
My first exposure to his work came over twenty years ago on a trip to the Albany Rural Cemetery. I remember hearing some passing reference to an especially fine angel statue there, but I wasn't really looking for it and I didn't expect to be that impressed by one angel in a cemetery full of fascinating monuments. And I didn't actually know where this angel was located within the cemetery. But my late great-aunt (who somehow put up with my interest in history and let me drag her from Tarrytown to Ticonderoga and all sorts of places in between) was looking for the Corning family plot because she used to work for the late Mayor Corning's brother.
And, just across from the Corning plot, there was this angel. A white marble figure in the center of its own circular plot. It was Erastus Palmer's Angel At The Sepulchre. Even though the stone was eroded and covered with some sort of lichen from well over a century of exposure to the elements, it was still a very beautiful and moving work of art and it began my ongoing interest in the sculptor.
I knew his second Albany house was long gone, but I'd read that his first house and studio still stood on Columbia Street. However, I made several trips up and down that steep downtown street and found nothing that matched the description of Palmer's residence.
Then I realized what I'd read was wrong. It wasn't Columbia Street, but Columbia Place. And I knew just where that was. More than once, I'd noticed an old house tucked in a corner behind the foot of Elk Street. But I'd never really gone over and looked at it.
Sure enough, it was Palmer's house. Locating it at last was rather like finding a Holy Grail of area history for me. OK, the fact that I found two dollar bills on the curb nearby was nice, too.
Click here to read more about Palmer.