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Pool and Half Dome, Court of the Four Seasons
Pool and Half Dome, Court of the Four Seasons

Chapter V


The system of inner courts which is a feature of the plan of this Exposition, is unique in the architecture of expositions. From the great central Court of the Universe radiate allees to the Marina on the north and on either side to the Court of the Four Seasons on the west and the Court of the Ages on the East. Opening to the south from the Court of the Four Seasons is the Court of Palms; opening to the south from the Court of the Ages is the Court of Flowers. In all these courts the decorative fancies of the builders have run unrestrained.

Tower of Jewels

A fitting gateway to the Court of the Universe, the heart of the great Exposition, is through the arch of the Tower of Jewels. Over four hundred feet the tower rises into the blue, sparkling in a riot of iridescent light, alike in sun and mist. At night it is most beautiful when it stands pearl white against the velvet blackness of the sky.

On either side the façade from which it springs is lavishly decorated with the emblems that stand for Triumph and for Glory. The sacrificial altars of the Egyptians with the rams' heads at the corners, top the wall. The obelisks, record of the departed glory of Egypt, here bearing the disks of the planets, rise beside the altar stone. Below on the balustrade is the Persian cipher of the sun and the Hindu signs of the sun and the rain. The Roman eagle poises for flight along the rail and the lion's head is bossed below. Festal wreaths are hung between the Corinthian columns, and the fasces of the lictors are set below the Rose of the Renaissance, while the Shell of Saint James is set upon the light posts near by.

As the basic thought of this celebration is the triumph of the mind of man, it is fitting that the figure of Minerva - dominant, victorious - should stand upon the keystone of the mighty arch leading into the Court of the Universe.

Court of the Universe

In contrast to the peace and the sense of solitude in the classic Court of the Four Seasons, and the solemn sacrificial atmosphere of the Court of the Ages, is the splendid inspiring note that sounds from the Court of the Universe, as one steps beneath the arch of the Tower of Jewels into the glorious amphitheater. The great leap of the arches of the East and the West, and the long lines of columns from the northern side of the court down the allee to the Bowman at the end, lend a dignity most impressive. There is one note in this court, unfortunate, impossible - the gingerbread bandstand. All else is splendid. In this great uplift of man's power and thought, in this assembling of the architecture of all nations and all times, the mighty chords of music should sound, checked by the blue vault of the sky alone.

The arches are classically Roman in their lift from the ground to the turn of the arch, but they are ramped in Saracenic fashion and backed on either side by towers with Moorish domes. These domes, softly colored in amber or brown or in a blue that seems to blend into the sky above, are topped by groups of golden balls, symbolic of the Saracenic months of the year, counted by the phases of the moon. The obelisks that corner the arches are the Egyptian sun-dials. The center of the arch above the keystone bears the Persian sun cipher. It was at first the idea to have this the Court of the Sun and the Moon and the Stars. At the corners of the arches Roman shields bear the round face of the Roman sun.

Above on the balustrade over the Persian cipher of the sun all about the court, the Star Maidens poise with arms upraised as though in greeting to the sun, their jeweled crowns sparkling in the noonday splendor and shining in paler glory beneath the softer light of the moon. When the mist and fog sweep over them they seem to swim in the swirling clouds. Once, in a violent April storm, they stood in prismatic radiance in the falling rain.

The frieze in this court is most lavishly and intricately decorated. There is the honeysuckle, the first vine to put forth its buds in Greece, used by the vestals who bound it upon their brows in the Greek festivals when they entered the temples; the banded garland, emblematic of fertility, into which is worked the rose of Castile and the crocus of Greece; the grapevine and the grapes, emblematic among the Romans of the lavish gifts of the earth; the skull of the oxen, the Greek emblem of the fertility of the earth and its gifts to man; and the lion's head, emblematic of the summer solstice, the midsummer month of the year among the Romans, and their sign of might and power.

On the front of the arch, so Roman in its leap, so Saracenic in its rampart, are the Moorish windows typical of Granada and Seville in Spain, bossed above by the Spanish rose and latticed by the jalousie, painted the same hue of green as those whose shutters screened off the harems in the palaces of the Moorish days in Spain. Below them the great archangel, Michael, the Angel of Peace through war, stands guard, his sword unsheathed but pointing to the ground. Above the band of the frieze, on either side of the arch, rise the griffins, half eagle, half lion, typical of dual power over the mind, over the body, over the air, over the earth the flight of the imagination, quickness of thought the power of physical strength and control. On the spandrel of the arch is shown Pegasus, the winged horse, emblem of inspiration and creative power, and typical of imagination and poetry.

Separating the division of the frieze, on the front of the arch, are batons like those held by the generals of the Cæsars when leading their armies to victory and hence symbolic of military power and achievement.

The columns throughout the court are Corinthian - the delicate acanthus leaf rising about the garland of fruit and flowers at the top, and this capped by the pineapple, the Italian Renaissance sign of the fertility of the earth. The dark-brown columns that front the arch are a powerful note of color against the soft buff travertine and the delicate touches of blue and rose in the background of the frieze decorations.

Aloft on the arch to either side rise groups of statuary which give these their final triumphant note, the sharp silhouettes of the sculptured figures against the sky on either end recalling the Brandenburger Thor and the Arc de Triomphe in Paris. These groups are known as the Nations of the East and the Nations of the West.

The huge elephant in whose howdab rides the Spirit of the Power of the East is flanked by a Mohammedan chief mounted on a dromedary and bearing the standard of his tribe; by an Arab sheik on his fiery steed; and by a Tartar chieftain on his rugged pony. On foot between are two negro servitors hearing baskets of fruit, an Arab huntsman with his falcon on his wrist, and a Thibetan llama with the great sword of faith.

Across the court is the group from the West. In the center the great prairie wagon lumbers heavily along. Above it the Spirit of Enterprise with wings outspread urges it forward. To the front, gazing wistfully at the unknown world before her, stands the Mother of Tomorrow. Grouped about the wagon are the voyageur whose feet knew the trackless wastes of the far Northwest; the Alaskan squaw bending pitifully beneath the weight of her burden the conquistador; the different types of the naturalized American the settlers of the early days; the American Indian mounted, and beside him, on foot, his squaw. Children at either end of the group typify the promise of the youth of this young land. The figures in this Western group, individually, are stronger than those in the Nations of the East. The Mother of Tomorrow, Enterprise, the Alaskan Indian and the American Indian mounted are especially fine.

Around the arches, flitting out softly in ever-widening circles, the pigeons sweep to and fro in the shadows and sunlight, down to the pools in the sunken garden above which the lovely Rising Sun and Descending Night seem floating in the air. The blaze of brilliant flowers change with the changing of the seasons, forming a gorgeous spot of color when seen through the shifting spray of these two fountains.

On four sides flights of steps lead clown into the sunken garden. At the head of the steps to the south are the great figures of Air and Earth; to the north, those of Water and Fire. Above the figure of Air sweeps the eagle, and man crouches below, bound on the wings of Air, ready to spring upward in flight. The dreaming Earth lies asleep and about her start the growing things, and the last of her children, man, comes slowly to life. Fire, malicious and crafty, teases the salamander wriggling at his feet, and Water in the presence of old Neptune seems to shout aloud the hollow call of the seas. Beside him lies a sea monster and strands of kelp enmesh him and sweep over the trident at his side. These figures give a splendid sense of solidity and are a wonderful note in the harmony of line, sweeping away in the curves of the friezes and the rounding tops of the domes.

At the head of the stairway, to the east and west, are the graceful groups of Dance and Song, Poetry and Music.

Beneath the domes, under the ramparts and repeated about the court is a beautiful classic frieze, cameo-like in its exquisite play of line, showing Atlas, posed like the Moses of Sargent's Prophets, in the center, and the figures of his slaughters, the signs of the zodiac. With each figure there is a medallion graven with the special sign of a month, and the groups are separated by two figures, veiled in floating drapery representing the clouds. This is one of the most beautiful bits of bas-relief decoration at the Exposition.

On the face of the great arch below there are two medallions in bas-relief, bearing queer, sketchy, twisting figures, garlanded apparently in strands of kelp, the meaning of which it seems all too impossible to tell. They seem to have little relevance to the other decorations of the court, but are not inharmonious. Hindu elephants form the stands for the flagpoles here, and from the poles flutter banners of rose, blue and gold.

The colonnades leading out of this court toward the north front a long pool. They give a very beautiful effect of height and distance, and the vista from under the arch of the Tower of Jewels would be a wonderful one were it not for the bandstand.

About the sunken gardens there is another daring architectural innovation - the lighting posts are alternate figures of men and women used as caryatides. Their effect is most harmonious.

Court of the Four Seasons

The peaceful Court of the Four Seasons is as a haven of rest to the weary and the oppressed. The repetition in classic proportion, the noble arches, the splendid rise of the half dome, the graceful sweep from cornice down to soft green foliage and to the emerald pool in the center, satisfies the eye in flowing line and unobtrusive color. There is a note of peace in this court that seems to sound nowhere else in so strong a degree. Look down the long allee, past the graceful statue of Ceres with her flowing garments blown back seemingly by the north wind from the bay, and across the blue water to the hills beyond; the world will seem very peaceful, and strife and care things of another sphere and another day.

Above the half dome to the south of the court rises the figure of Harvest, her overflowing horn of plenty pouring forth the fruits and grains of the generous earth. Below her, poised on columns, are the figures of Rain and Sunshine - Rain catching the water in her shell, Sunshine shielding her head with a branch of palm. The capitals on these columns show one of the many daring bits of decoration so quietly introduced into the general scheme throughout the Exposition as to be hardly noticeable. The capitals are composed of dancing figures.

Aloft on the balustrade which surrounds the court are set the sacrificial urns of the old Greek time; the urns that held the oil, the wheat, the wine and the blood of the sacred bulls in the days of the Greek festivals of the harvest. At the corner of the plinth on either side stand the sacrificial bulls, garlanded in roses and being led by a youth and a maiden to the place of sacrifice. Below the bulls are eagles, the Roman emblem of ambition and the dominating power of the mind over the temporal power of earth, the earth being typified in the lions' heads bossed just above. The columns are Ionic, the little fern crozier capital typical of reviving life. These columns in the old days of Greece were set about the temples of Ceres and of Vesta and in front of the halls of learning, medicine and law. The addition of the ears of corn below is another one of those decorative innovations very successful in the Exposition. Above the tassels of the ears of corn is set the crocus, the first flower above the snow and the Greek sign of Spring.

Above the arches stand the maidens who followed in the train of Ceres to greet her daughter Proserpine when she came from Hades to visit the earth. Their brows are banded with wheat and they carry fruited trees in their hands. In the spandrels of the arches figures most gracefully outlined bear also the fruits and flowers and grains of the earth. The names of the signs of the zodiac are carved above and the fountains in the arches tell their own story of the four seasons of the year, their waters flowing softly in a shining veil over the steps that lead down to the pools below.

In the vaults of the arches are exquisite little bas-relief Greek medallions typifying the festival seasons of the Greek year. These are among the loveliest bits of bas-relief in the Exposition but they are lost to the sight of the many who pass through the arches beneath them without realizing the dainty beauty hidden in the blue and rose colored vaults overhead.

At night when the central pool takes on opal tints and the bulls and the figure of harvest are mirrored white in its placid surface, stand at its edge and look out to the west toward the shadowy outline of the Palace of Fine Arts rising in pale splendor, or down the colonnades to the velvety blackness of the sky sown with twinkling stars; and there will come a vision of peace and restfulness that will linger long in memory. Or on a late summer afternoon, with the fog drifting through the court, torn as it swirls about the balustrades and drifting in ragged veil-like mists through the trees and among the columns, the central pool takes on a misty loveliness that seems unearthly - each vision wonderful each view of it a thing apart.

Court of the Ages

See the Court of the Ages at night, by moonlight first if possible; if not, on a night when the mists are floating heavily about it and the smoke from the braziers on the great altar at the entrance and about the pool seems to rise and mingle with the mists above. In this court Mullgardt has given a strange weird picture, complete and perfect, though many things were denied to him in the making of it.

The plan of the court was to show the evolution of life from the lower forms of the sea-creatures up to man; and this is done by a system of symbolic decoration commencing at the ground and rising to the figures on the rim of the court and still higher to the crest of the tower. Close to the ground entangled in the seaweed that envelopes the lower forms of the growing things of the sea are first, in formless fashion, suggested the crab, the lobster and the crawfish. The slender shafts bearing these figures go wavering up almost like tongues of flame, shifting into delicate Gothic-like spindles and ending in little spires like the finials on Gothic churches. At night or in the mists they seem to waver and leap upward in obedience to the purpose of the court that tells of the upward rise of life through the ages to man.

Topping these flame-like columns are Primitive Man and Woman, the man crude and brutish, feeding a pelican or bearing home the spoils of the chase; the woman sodden and heavy, bearing her children in her arms. Back of them, the cock, the clarion call of the Renaissance the sign of the awakened conscience of the world.

The garden in the Court of the Ages is a dream of beauty. First it glowed in the blush of pink hyacinths; then in tulips red and yellow; in pansies deep blue and violet, and later to shine in all the splendor of autumn color. Slender Italian cypress trees lead the eye up along the wavering lines of the walls. Orange trees weight the air with their heavy perfume and the glance is drawn upward past the silly little water nymphs that top the pillars on either side of the court to the solemn majesty of the altar-like tower to the north.

On the first lift of this tower are Primitive Man and Primitive Woman, struggling from the mire of the earth and fettered by Ignorance and Superstition in their struggles upward into the light of a freer life. Between them shapeless figures rise from the mud above the reptilian forms to which they seem almost akin. On the next lift stands the Crusader, gazing afar toward the land of Palestine and the promise that his efforts shall bring. On one side the Archer who won by the sword; on the other, the Preacher who won through the heart, both teaching the lesson of progress and life. Enthroned beneath the vault of the tower sits Modern Civilization, Reason Triumphant. Beside her the Lamps of Learning are alight, and braziers burn their incense to this great, all-powerful spirit. Serene and calm she looks down upon the Fountain of the Earth with its tragic story; down to the end of the pool to the group of the Sinking Sun drawn down into the darkness of oblivion. Beside her sit the children of men, one with the book of learning just opened; the other, with a wheel, some say of industry, in his hands. Perhaps it is a prayer wheel which he is about to cast aside to prove that man is done with superstition and fear. Serene and confident that man has bettered himself and has come to his kingdom, this great figure of Reason and light looks out across the Court of the Ages.

In the center of the allee leading- to the Marina rises a heavy incongruous figure, badly placed, called The Story of the Sea. At the end of this allee and repeated within the court rise the great Renaissance sun ciphers, their blazing brightness at night the only touch of direct lighting of its kind throughout the Exposition courts or palaces. They form a brilliant note and are in harmony with the beautiful Spanish lamps that hang from the Gothic arches encircling this wonderful place.

While the Court of the Ages is a thing of beauty in the daytime, the scheme of illumination at night lends a mystic sacrificial atmosphere to it that is most impressive. With the air heavy with the scent of orange and hyacinth or the jasmine fragrance of the bell-like datura, this court takes on the aspect of a place where holy rites might be held. Great clouds of smoke colored with a rosy glow rise from the altar and from the braziers by the fountain. Flames shoot from the mouths of serpents that seem to writhe alive about the urns beside the pool, and from the solemn group in the center of the fountain great clouds drift slowly upward. The whole air seems impregnated with a spirit of sacrifice and prayer. About the walls the tall cypresses rise like pointing figures toward the upper tier of figures that float in the smoke-wreaths swirling about, and beyond the cock rises sharp and alert. The figure of Reason at the top of the altar takes on new majesty and power, silhouetted against the sky, and from her benign presence down through the rosy light comes her message of assurance and triumph.

The Court of the Ages has less of the peace and rest of the Court of the Four Seasons, but by day or by night is a beautiful, solemn place. It is perhaps there in the evening, in the midst of all the spirit of sacrifice, one can best feel that the work of man is truly inspired by a great and powerful, all-knowing, all-seeing One. In giving to us this court, its creator, Mullgardt, has done a service to our better selves; has given to us an artistic ideal and a vision so beautiful that his name should live always in our grateful memories of this Exposition with those of Maybeck, Weinmann, McNeil, and last and best beloved, McLaren.

The allees leading to the east and west of the Court of the Ages are largely Florentine in character, their cloistered effect enhanced by the severity of vertical and horizontal line. Between the doorways, set in a molding of the egg and dart and carrying out the patine effect of the walls are little medallions representing the arms of the seaboard cities of Spain and Italy - Barcelona, Cadiz, Palos, Gibraltar, the Jebel-Tara of the Moors, Genoa and Venice.

Court of Flowers

The Court of Flowers is an exquisite feast of color, of light and of graceful line effect. It opens to the south from the Court of the Ages. A loggia, set with the dainty figure of the Flower Girl, runs around its three sides. The travertine here is a fine deep buff, and the color scheme a lavish use of rose and blue. The lamps that hang before its three doorways are reproductions of Greek temple lamps.

The arrangement of this court is in the style of the best of the Florentine Renaissance effect and in consequence the griffin is lavishly used on the frieze, for the griffin was very clear to the house of Medici, meaning as it did the power of the mind. The pillars are in harmony with the lavish decorative effect here they are a composite of the Corinthian and Ionic - the acanthus leaf curling below a basket effect of fruits and flowers. The light posts are very ornate, being fashioned of baskets of fruits and flowers from whose top the soft indirect light glows.

The columns are garlanded below with a laurel band and the swinging lamps in the corridors are ornamented with caryatides of flower girls. The doorways are banded with garlands of flowers and the egg and dart motif. The great Florentine lion - the Maroccio - in festal guise and bearing a flower wreath, the bringer of good luck and power to the House of the Medici, stands on either side of the steps leading out of this most charming court.

The story of the Maroccio lion is interesting. It is said that Giovanni de Medici in his days of poverty and oblivion while walking along the seashore found a crude carving of a tiny lion. Faintly outlined on its base was the fleur-de-lis, and it is said that this determined him to seek his fortunes in Florence, for the fleur-de-lis was the sign of that city. So, say the Florentines, the Maroccio stands guard always over the treasures, palaces and tombs of the Medici.

Beneath the cornice about this court is the rose of the Renaissance.

Court of Palms

The beautiful little Court of Palms leading out of the Court of the Four Seasons to the south, offers many charms to the careful view. The false loggia or gallery faced with travertine blocks, grained in the rich tint of brown-veined marble, hung about with garlands of fruit in the brown, orange, gold and green of autumn, catches the eye with its flue color notes. The quaint caryatides, their faces rarely lovely beneath the little wings that grace their heads, gaze down into the quiet pools in the sunken garden below. The doorways are banded with the shell and in the inner vault is the rose. They are fronted by two dancing nymphs bearing an unscarred shield. In the tympana of the side doors the murals Pursuit of Pleasure and Fruits and Flowers of the Earth are good color notes, but not otherwise satisfying. The one at the end is splendid. The glorious gold in the robe of the Victorious Spirit of Truth triumphing over Ignorance and Superstition makes a wonderful burst of color to hold the eye ere it drops to the soft blue sky seen through the court beyond.

The engaged pillars are Ionic, their flat shafts giving a peculiar air of spaciousness. Steps lead down to the pools past the palm garden with its beds of yellow flowers, first in the glory of tulips, then in the riot of golden pansies, and then in the soft tints of the little lady's-slipper.

Here again is found that strange and daring blend of times and themes. This court, so happy in its gorgeous tints so gay with flowers its palm trees breathing of warm sunshine and tropic splendor, holds in its outer entrance the tragic compelling End of the Trail. And to the thinker it seems fitting there, for what in life is free from some shadow, some serious thought!

Roman Windows, Moorish Jalousie and the Spanish Rose Windowsin the Arches of the East and West
Roman Windows, Moorish Jalousie and the Spanish Rose Windows
in the Arches of the East and West

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