When the Gibbes Museum opened in 1905, the nation celebrated what Charleston has always understood: the power of art – to inspire our imagination, heal our hurt, and nourish our souls.

Sculpture under the Dome

When the Gibbes reopens on May 28, visitors will be welcomed to freshly renovated gallery spaces throughout the Museum. One of the most spectacular transformations is the newly named Campbell Rotunda, now restored to its original Beaux Arts architectural grandeur, and returned to its intended use as a sculpture gallery.

Rotunda Gallery, 1935
Rotunda Gallery, 1935, before the woodwork was painted and the floor was covered.

The Campbell Rotunda exemplifies—in its original woodwork, flooring, and distinguished stained-glass dome—the classical forms and ornate renaissance detailing typical of Beaux Arts-style architecture. However, over the last hundred years many of these special architectural details were altered or masked. Recent renovations have rectified these modifications. The elaborately-patterned, red and green tile flooring has been revealed for the first time since 1935 when it was covered with linoleum and later carpeting. The ornamental oak woodwork, painted over in the 1930s to neutralize the decorative detailing, has been restored to its original finish. Finally, the stained-glass dome, characterized by its vibrant red, green, and yellow Greek-meander pattern, has been cleaned of decades of dust and debris, and outfitted with the latest in LED lighting to ensure its luminosity throughout the day.

Rotunda Gallery, ca. 1960
Rotunda Gallery, ca. 1960, after it was painted and the floor was covered in linoleum.

Beneath the dome, The Campbell Rotunda will showcase nineteenth-century neoclassical sculpture. Featuring works by both American and Italian artists such as Horatio Greenough, Hiram Powers, and Giuseppe Ceracchi the gallery will explore the emergence of the first professional school of American sculptors, all of whom trained and worked in Italy where they had easy access to Tuscan marble and skilled carvers. Thanks to funds provided by McGuire Family foundation, new sculpture acquisitions including Faith, by Hiram Powers and Helen of Troy by Pierce Francis Connelly will join perennial favorites Veiled Lady, by Pietro Rossi, and Mrs. Robert Gilmor, Jr. (Sarah Reeve Ladson), by Horatio Greenough, in the newly renovated space.

Helen of Troy, 1867, by Pierce Francis Connelly (American, 1841–1932)
Helen of Troy, 1867, by Pierce Francis Connelly (American, 1841–1932). Marble. Museum purchase with funds from the William B. McGuire, Jr. Family Foundation (2014.009.0002)
Veiled Lady, 1882, by Pietro Rossi (Italian, active 1856–1882).
Veiled Lady, 1882, by Pietro Rossi (Italian, active 1856–1882). Marble; 28 3/8 x 20 1/2 inches; 42 1/2 x 39 x 18 1/8 inches (base). Gibbes Museum of Art, Gift of Mrs. Julian Mitchell (1910.011.0001)

Sara Arnold, Curator of Collections, Gibbes Museum of Art

Published April 21, 2016

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