It’s A Mystery – Angels in the Dome
|All Saint's Day - Painted by Fra Angelico|
Today is All Saints Day, when the bonds between heaven and earth are celebrated. This seems an appropriate time to delve into our angelic mystery located far above the West Baden Springs Hotel atrium, in a tiny drum-shaped room. Here is a puzzle that has existed for over a century.
Known as the Angel Room, this small place houses several larger-than-life sized angels painted on wooden and steel panels in the style of Fra Angelico, one of the 15th century’s greatest painters. But who painted these Renaissance-style angels high above the atrium? That’s where the mystery comes into play. And like any good who-dun-it, there are several possible “suspects” to consider.
First, whomever did the paintings had to have access to the room, paints, brushes, the talent and a knowledge of Fra Angelico’s work. So who fits that profile?
It could have occurred when hotel owner Lee Sinclair contracted with architect Harrison Albright to build his new fireproof hotel after the original burned in 1901. Craftsmen from Italy were brought in during 1901-02 to lay floor tiles in the new hotel. Other artists came from Cincinnati to sculpt the Rookwood fireplace. Could one of these craftsmen have whiled away some time at the top of the dome?
|WWI Soldiers at West Baden|
In the 1920s, owner Ed Ballard had his Hagenbeck Wallace Circus set up the “big top” in the atrium during the winter months, putting on shows for guests and local residents as a way to keep the performers in practice. The circus performers and “roadies” came from across the country. Was a circus scene painter unleashing his inner artist in that small room high above the crowds?
|Jesuit Priests at West Baden|
|Angel with Horn|
|Angel with Drum|
By Joy Neighbors