The Money Factory and Fine Art

Day 12 – Moored, Washington, DC Our time in DC was coming to an end all too soon, but there was still so much left to see. We talked about our options and ended up arranging a free tour at the BEP … Bureau of Engraving & Printing, aka The Money Factory. We showed up early and waited in line until it was our turn for a tour. The BEP building itself is grand ...

bep building

… but the entrance for the tour was unremarkable and easy to miss.

bep tour entrance

An introductory exhibit gave some history as well as displaying a million dollars in 10s. Quite the stash, we thought.

1 million dollars in 10s

The 40-minute tour started with a video and then we were led through the various steps in currency production with sidebars about the paper, ink, security measures, etc. No photos were allowed for obvious reasons. They had lots of clever posters on the walls … “The buck STARTS here.” “We make money the old-fashioned way … we print it.” The final stop was the gift shop where we had the opportunity to buy shredded dollars and all things greenback-oriented and dollar oriented. We were most impressed with Woodrow Wilson on the $100,000 bill. We were told, however, that the largest bill printed and in circulation these days is the $100. All in all, compared to what we'd seen and experienced thus far in DC, this tour was pretty lackluster.

1000000 dollar bill

Enough money … it was time for some fine art. We headed to the National Gallery of Art, America's national art museum, not part of the Smithsonian. This is not a place to whiz through, but with limited time available, we cheated and sought out some highlights brochures from the the Visitor's Desk. We wanted to take in everything we could. Only the West Building was open … grand and elegant … candy for the eye.

national gallery of art

The Neoclassic architectural style, so prevalent in most of DC's 1930-40s buildings, is impressive inside and out. We entered through the Rotunda, all polished marble columns and floors and worked our way first to the West Garden Court. We wandered through the centuries of artists, gazing and pondering. The early artwork from 14th century was primarily religious in nature.

giotto madanna and child

The Gallery's collection of paintings, drawings, prints, photographs, sculpture, medals, and decorative arts traces the development of Western Art from the Middle Ages to the present, including the only painting by Leonardo da Vinci in the Americas.” Worthy of our ooohs and aaahs.

leonardi da vinci portrait

My art history knowledge is admittedly limited and rusty, but names like Giotto, Raphael, Rembrandt, Toulouse-Lautrec, Gauguin, Renoir, Vermeer, Monet and Manet rang a distinct bell. Here they all were, assembled and beautifully displayed for the world to see and share. Awesome!

rembrandt self portrait

We were enthralled with an artist who was at work copying Mary Cassatt's “Girl Arranging Her Hair”. She was doing quite a credible job.

artist at work

Once again, digesting it all became an issue for us. We lapsed into fine art overload. So much to see and absorb as we breezed through, ticking off the world's master artists as we went. We stopped ourselves and decided we'd rather take a miss on some pieces and more fully appreciate what we did have time to see.

We moved outside to the Sculpture Garden for a look. Lovely! Graceful, curving walking paths led us to wondrous artwork around each corner and tucked into nooks and crannies waiting to be discovered. Fanciful, modern, contemporary, realistic, trompe l'oeil … it was great.

sculpture garden collage

As the day ebbed, we made our way back to Nine of Cups. It was nearing our time to leave Washington, DC and prepare for our passage back to Chesapeake. So much to see and always, always, always so little time.