Monday, February 7, 2011

Seeking Sanctuary in Art

If at first you don't succeed, try, try again. We'd tried and failed once, here, Danny and I, and we were ready to give it a second shot.

Walking into Aurora, Danny began to ooh and ahh over the sleek black and white decor; he understood better once I explained that the place is a club on weekend nights.

Once in our booth, he continued the appreciative noises about the menu. Ooh, schnitzel! Ahh, fresh salmon! I brought him back to reality by reminding him that we had nerdy plans afterwards and that he was the one on a tight schedule.

So we went with sandwiches, he with his first-ever Muffaletta (he'd had bites of mine at Xtra's and Lamplighter and was ready for his own) and me with the roast pork with Swiss cheese, coleslaw, sliced pickles and Dijon mustard on ciabatta.

The only thing wrong with my sandwich was its height, so I wasn't able to actually eat it as intended. Still, even with a knife and fork, the flavorful pork and crunchy coleslaw were a tasty combination.

Apparently Danny's occasional bites of my Muffalettas hadn't prepared him for how salty a sandwich it is.

Hello, olive tapenade? I suggested he thin out the amount of olive spread and that was all it took for him to be more than satisfied with his choice.

One of the benefits of lunch at Aurora is that the chef is a master pastry chef and dessert arrives unbidden.

Today it was two rectangles of classic cheese cake. No razzle-dazzle flavors, no add-ins, just rich cream cheese flavor with a hint of lemon zest in a perfect sized portion.

Bellies full, we headed the four blocks down to St. Paul's to continue our quest to see all the Tiffany windows in central Virginia together.

For a church originally designed to be simple and devoid of religious symbols (iconography being much too Catholic for the, ahem, Episcopal church), St. Paul's is positively museum-like now, rich in art and objects. Which was exactly why we were there.

As we entered the church, the bells rang out the hour overhead; it was very cool to hear them from within. With our "Walking Tour of St. Paul's" brochures in hand, we did the full tour.

And, as we did so, we realized how familiar we've become with Tiffany's style; we can spot a non-Tiffany window from fifty paces across a nave or chancel.

Only one non-Tiffany window impressed us and that was for reasons completely opposite from those that make us Tiffany groupies.

Henry Holiday's "Moses Leaving the House of Pharaoh" had none of the luminosity of a Tiffany, but the richness of its jewel tones was breathtaking.

Since we'd come for the Tiffany windows, we were surprised to discover that St. Paul's foremost work of art is the mosaic Anderson Altarpiece: The Last Supper.

We knew from the VMFA exhibit that mosaic was also a specialty of the Tiffany Studios and here was magnificent proof.

The reproduction of Leonardo's fresco of the Last Supper could be an afternoon's viewing in and of itself. The rich, gold background set off the classic composition and up close it was mesmerizing to see all the tiny pieces that made up the greater picture.

For historical purposes, we took note of pew #63 (Jefferson Davis) and pew #111 (R.E. Lee and fam).

As a long time-lapsed Catholic, I had to laugh when taking note of the cushions in most of the pews. So it's okay to have creature comforts but not religious symbols in a church? Too funny.

But it wasn't issues of religion we were there for, it was art. And that surrounded us at every turn.

Luckily for us art lovers, the church wasn't closed today.


  1. Karen, whose Muffaletta is your favorite? Or which one would you say is the most authentic? My husband's been on the hunt for a good one in Richmond.

  2. Of the three I've had here, I would say probably Lamplighter's.

    The problem is that none of them make the sandwich in advance like it should be. The whole idea is for the olive salad to be absorbed into the bread, not just sit on it, but that takes time.

    I'll keep searching and post my findings, because I love a good Muffaletta!

  3. Thanks for your visit!

    From now until February 2012, the 1890 preliminary watercolor study for the Moses window you described is on display at the VMFA.