Another highlight of the trip to California was visiting Hearst Castle in San Simeon, halfways between Los Angeles and San Francisco. I guess I’ve been fascinated by the ‘Enchanted Hill’ ever since watching Orson Welles’ Citizen Kane a long time ago (a film, I suppose, that was never shown in Hearst’s private home theatre in the Casa Grande). And, of course, the castle houses a sizable collection of Greek and Roman artefacts, mostly vases and sarcophagi, but also a black-and-white mosaic.
I liked how the museum applies the same policy to ‘fakes’ as the Brussels archaeological museum (although there aren’t really that many of them at the castle). Hearst bought these as real antiques so they remain on view where he put them. And that’s the thing about the castle or the ‘ranch’ as he apparently preferred to call it. It only makes sense as Hearst’s personal vision and refuge from the real world. Historicity and authenticity are strangely at the same time both extremely important and absolutely pointless. The castle is one man’s utopia and the antiques play a role in this in a rather random and superficial way. Of course, this doesn’t make them any less interesting.
A good example are the lampshades made of vellum of which there are several in Hearst’s personal office in Casa Grande. Somehow they struck me as both barbaric and refined for someone who could buy anything and was looking for something unique to fulfill his personal vision. The whole castle oozes of an “I-can-do-anything”
-attitude and is full of such fascinating details that surely can’t be rightly appreciated in just one day’s visit.
So we focused on the Roman sarcophagi (of which a couple are probably fake). Lucikly, they’re located in many different parts of the castle, so we got a good look around. Many thanks to the museum director Hoyt Fields for giving us a wonderful tour of the Castle and its Roman sarcophagi. More photos below the fold for those interested.