Tuesday, January 21, 2014

MIA Book Tour

"It was only a sunny smile, and little it cost in the giving, 
but like morning light it scattered the night and made the day worth living." 

-- F. Scott Fitzgerald 

Lady Almina and the Real Downton Abbey tells the story behind Highclere Castle, the real-life inspiration and setting for Julian Fellowes's Emmy Award-winning PBS show Downton Abbey and the life of one of its most famous inhabitants, Lady Almina, the 5th Countess of Carnarvon. 
Drawing on a rich store of materials from the archives of Highclere Castle, including diaries, letters, and photographs, the current Lady Carnarvon has written a transporting story of this fabled home on the brink of war.
Much like her Masterpiece Classic counterpart, Lady Cora Crawley, Lady Almina was the daughter of a wealthy industrialist, Alfred de Rothschild, who married his daughter off at a young age, her dowry serving as the crucial link in the effort to preserve the Earl of Carnarvon's ancestral home. Throwing open the doors of Highclere Castle to tend to the wounded of World War I, Lady Almina distinguished herself as a brave and remarkable woman.
This rich tale contrasts the splendor of Edwardian life in a great house against the backdrop of the First World War and offers an inspiring and revealing picture of the woman at the center of the history of Highclere Castle.
(synopsis information from Goodreads.com) 

The Downton Abbey craze has moved to the Minneapolis Institute of Arts.   MIA offers free public book tours. It certainly is a creative way to meld art with the written word. Each month a different book  is chosen.  A tour is then created based  on the plot, people and events in the book of the month. 

The tour was well attended with participants who were well informed on all aspects of Downtown Abbey. Besides being an informative tour, I was impressed with the creativity of the docent with the objects and paintings chosen for her presentation. 

The following is an overview of the MIA presentation for all those who are up to date on life at Highclere Castle.  

   Boudoir  Secretary Writing Desk 
This gorgeous period piece represents an important household item ladies used on a daily basis for their correspondence.
World War I also affected the wealthy who were landowners faced with paying high taxes and incurring debts. Lady Almina and the Earl of Carnarvon rose to the occasion by opening the doors of Highclere to the wounded by providing the castle as a hospital facility. Lady Almina's life now had a new sense of purpose. She used her own money to supply nurses, doctors and food for wounded soldiers. 
This painting shows a concerned family surrounding a father and husband who returned from war a wounded hero.
Highclere Castle was situated near the town of York. This painting shows a similar town where servants lived and shopped for supplies for the castle. The hierarchy between the upstairs and downstairs provides much drama each week on Downtown Abbey.
This sculptured piece titled "Cathedral" by Rodin was chosen to symbolize Almina who lent a helping hand to the wounded staying at Highclere Castle. Also Almina encouraged her staff to interact with the patients to help in their recuperation period.
This is a self portrait of a fashionable wealthy lady Frances Cranmer Greenman,who lived in Minneapolis during the same time period of Lady Almina at Highclere castle. Greenman was a masterful self portrait painter whose celebrity clients included Mary Pickford and Lynne Fontanne.  This self portrait reminded the docent of Edith whom she regarded as a woman that was ahead of her time in the world of fashion.

This piece provided a lot of discussion. The docent felt it represented war and its impact on the people. Some thought it might be the "angel of death" while others thought it represented  "the avenger".   Either way war had a huge impact on life at Highclere Castle.  

These ivory tusks are called 'clappers." They are a musical instrument and also known to keep away evil spirits. Clappers were discovered during Lord Carnavon's excavation and exploration of King Tut's tomb.

You might be interested in the February book selection for the next book tour. King Peggy by Peggielene Bartels.

short synopsis
There's an unlikely new leader in West Africa. Three years ago, Peggielene Bartels, a naturalized U.S. citizen and secretary at Ghana's Embassy in Washington woke to the news that she had been crowned king of Otuam, a Ghanaian fishing village.

1 comment:

  1. I've heard many positive reviews of the Mpls Institute of the Arts. I really must go there sometime. Can you believe I only recently discovered Downton Abbey? Now I'm hooked.