Artist: Olindo Mario Ricci (American, b. Italy, 1904-1982)
Title: Famous Libraries of the World: The Augustan Library and The Alexandrian Library
Dimensions: 9 feet
Location in Library: Second floor
Media: Oil on canvas
Provenance: Funded by the Works Progress Administration, Federal Art Project. © Artist’s Estate
Gracing the Library’s grandest reading room are murals of two of the ancient world’s greatest libraries: Egypt’s Alexandrian Library and Rome’s Augustan Library. Muralist Olindo Mario Ricci wanted students to “feel as if they are in the company of the greats as they read the classics” and thus included many illustrious figures, including the mathematician Euclid and the poet Virgil. The panel represents a corner of the Alexandrian Library at the height of its cultural splendor. Euclid appears in the foreground, compass in hand, and surrounded by students. Young Archimedes is behind them at study. Ptolemy Philadelphus, patron of the library, enters at right, accompanied by a scribe bearing papyri. Suspended from the ceiling is a model of an Egyptian galley.
Ricci began the murals as a WPA artist and completed them as a Brooklyn College professor, doing much of the work in a studio in the Library’s clock tower.