“Stung by the Splendor”

“Stung by the Splendor”

Quoting Robert Browning, the Armstrong Browning Library is home to a classical display of architecture and art. See how its “splendor” can truly sting its audiences.

Photos And Story By Maran Shales

Every time I step into Armstong Browning Libary, I am filled with awe and completely mesmerized by its intricacy, detail, and beauty. It never ceases to amaze me how the entire building is merely constructed of the same elements as every other building — stone, wood, and metal, yet very few compare in their ability to captivate my attention in such a way. I was first drawn to the secluded building on campus because of the towering metal doors centered at the top of the steps. The doors alone are hefty from their size and can be challenging to open, but once I walked in, I thought I had just walked into a portal taking me back in time to some European castle. Saturated colors covered the floors and polished stone walls from the stained glass windows. 

Apart from the artwork, relics, and pure grandeur of the library, I am most fascinated by the very height of the ceiling. Each wall stretches to a majestic height, met by a ceiling covered in ornate patterns. 

This building has an authentic, serene atmosphere unlike any other building I have ever been in, and it will never fail each time I have the pleasure of visiting Armstrong Browning Library. 

Enjoy looking at the things that captivated my attention at the library. Stop by anytime between 9 a.m. and 5 p.m. during the week to admire the beauty or to discover a new study spot. 

Above and Right: Recreating the atmosphere of a Victorian salon while reflecting some of the Brownings’ personal taste and style, the Austin Moore-Elizabeth Barrett Browning Salon is peppered with an assortment of paintings and other relics that were significant to them.

Above: The Hankamer Treasure Room shares similar decorative elements with the adjacent room. Additionally, its floor features a replicated oak parquet floor, inspired by the original flooring found in Versailles Palace, France.

Above: The unique ceiling with plaster florets with exquisite turquoise accents, stands distinct, a breathtaking departure from the building’s other ceiling patterns.

Left: Thick, red, velvety curtains hug each side of the massive windows in the Meditation Foyer. They remind me of the coattails of royal garb and add another touch of regal elegance to the space. 

Right: These ornate chairs, crafted in the curule style akin to those gracing Brownings’ salon at Casa Guidi, seamlessly blend intricate design with historical sophistication, creating an ambiance of timeless elegance. 

All Three Above: The collection of stained glass windows forms a breathtaking kaleidoscope of color and light. Each window tells a unique story through vibrant hues and intricate details, casting a mesmerizing play of patterns that adds an ethereal and artistic touch to the space.

Above: Eight imported red levanto marble columns from Italy line the McLean Foyer of Meditation, complementing its impressive height. The room’s substantial volume, approximately forty-four cubic feet, not only contributes to its grandeur but also enhances its acoustics, rendering it an optimal venue for concerts and ceremonies.

Above: The stained glass window in the John Leedy-Jones Research Hall depicts “Guercino,” a famous painting by Giovanni Francesco Barbieri. Browning, inspired by this artwork during his time in Italy, wrote the poem “The Guardian Angel, A Picture at Fano”.