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29 Jul
Fri / 2011

A Summer Oasis

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 The Reflecting Pool is one of the most prominent and tranquil spaces within Rienzi’s gardens. A large plane of water accented by eight small fountainheads, the pool is surrounded by tea roses and azaleas as well as two outdoor statues, Figure of a Nude by Carol Wilson Crow and The Torchbearers by Charles Umlauf.

As inviting as it might look, any visitor who might venture a quick dip would quickly discover that this pool is only 18 inches deep. What was originally the Masterson family swimming pool has since been filled in. In the process of transforming from a home to a museum, museum staff learned that in order to meet city codes for a public institution the swimming pool required a four-foot fence around it.  This specification would interfere with Ralph Ellis Gunn’s original design for Rienzi’s gardens and John Staub’s vision for the home.

After much thought and consultation of Staub’s original blueprints, staff determined that the best solution was to fill in Rienzi’s pool to a depth of 18 inches, effectively turning the swimming pool into the serene Reflecting Pool seen today.  It was discovered in the process that Staub had designed eight fountainheads around the perimeter of the pool. Although included in his original design, they were never completed while the Mastersons lived at Rienzi.  It was decided that the fountainheads should be added to the Reflecting Pool since they not only aesthetically enhanced it, but have historical significance as the artist’s original intent.

Today, if you view the pool from Rienzi’s rear terrace, you may not even realize that it is only at a depth more appropriate for wading than elegant swan dives . This may be due to the angle, or, more likely, the fact that the bottom of the pool has been painted to intentionally give an illusion of depth. Come visit this calm oasis during the day, or see it when it sparkles in the moonlight at one of Rienzi’s nighttime events.

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About Casey Monahan

Casey Monahan

Casey Monahan joined Rienzi as education assistant in 2010. She received her B.A. in art history and history from the College of the Holy Cross, and her M.A. in art history from the University of Houston. At Rienzi, the Massachusetts native works with docents, tours, and other public programs. 

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