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Photo: The New York Times


 
 

 

 

       

 

Getting On...

 

 ...One's High Horse!

 

 

What better way to return to the city . . . from holidays to faraway places, from long lazy summer afternoons in the city, from time away to work on literary novels, from any sort of sabbatical at all . . . than to step into the jewel box that has alit on the banks of the East River and take a ride on a painted, gold-leafed steed with glittering glass eyes.

 


A rendering by Ateliers Jean Nouvel of Jane's Carousel

 

Jane's Carousel, which opens to the public on September 16, is housed, as its architect Jean Nouvel envisioned, like some ‘bijou’ in his very modern transparent pavilion.  Acrylic chosen instead of transparent glass for its delicate distortions—the view of city touched then by some of the conjury of old circus mirrors, as if now seen through the clearest gently-flowing water.  All the more enchanting for the contrast with the rough-tough industrial aesthetic of the bridges and warehouses of Dumbo.  And so, not only the ride itself, but one with whirling wild views of river and skyline, of tracery of steel-wire cables of Brooklyn Bridge.

 


Photo: Jane's Carousel

 

Jean Nouvel—of that other Pavilion from last summer at the Serpentine in the Kensington Gardens in London, of the Institut du Monde Arabe in Paris, of 100 11th Avenue in downtown NYC: renowned for his brilliant site-specific work, an architecture of drama where materials, technology, and light are used to evoke a certain mood, a certain magic.  Context is everything in his oeuvre.

 

Merry-go round, whirligig, roundabout.  The carousel has a long civil and martial history, embellished with all the romance that circus and fairground can conjure.  There’s a Byzantine bas-relief that dates to the 5th century of a ride—a central pole from which riders swing on baskets.  And over the centuries there are the layered influences of war horses, Arabian warriors, jousts, chivalric war play, horse ballet, and the training for all these things on early prototypes of the mechanized carousel which was developed in France in the 17th century.  Jane's Carousel is a restored antique, built in 1922 by the Philadelphia Toboggan Company, and a marvelous specimen of its kind.  And has been rather meticulously restored and refinished.  These horses have had their carvings cleaned, their paint retouched, their gold-leaf reapplied . . . . all the better to take one on that high-stepping magic ride….  We can’t wait!

 


An old horse from the carousel at the Jardin du Luxembourg
Photo: Flickmor

 

In the Jardin du Luxembourg in Paris, the famous Carousel dates from 1879.  The poet Rainer Maria Rilke was entranced by this fleeting world of whirling horses . . . .


Under the roof and the roof’s shadow turns
this train of painted horses for a while
In this bright land that lingers
Before it perishes….

 

But to dispel any lingering gloom from that last word of that lovely translation from the German, we say all one has to do is get back on that horse again....!

 

Visit: Jane's Carousel (opening September  16)

 

Read the Rilke poem online: The Merry-Go-Round, Jardin du Luxembourg, tr. C.F. MacIntyre

 

Read: Painted Ponies, American Carousel Art

 

Tags: architecture   design   color    jean nouvel

poetry   books   sculpture   new york buildings

 

 

 

 
 

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