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Main entrance

The California Palace of the Legion of Honor (often abbreviated to simply Legion of Honor by locals) is a fine art museum in San Francisco, California. The name is used both for the museum collection and for the building in which it is housed.



Statue of El Cid silhouetted by a solar corona in front of the Legion

The Legion of Honor was the gift of Alma de Bretteville Spreckels, wife of the sugar magnate and Thoroughbred racehorse owner/breeder Adolph B. Spreckels.[1] The building is a three-quarters scale imitation of the Palais de la Légion d'Honneur in Paris. The design was based on a model of the Hôtel de Salm that appeared at the 1915 Panama Pacific Exhibition, so it is not an exact copy. Completed in 1924, it was given to the City of San Francisco by Alma de Bretteville Le Normand Spreckels and designed by George Applegarth and H. Guillaume.

The museum building occupies an elevated site in Lincoln Park in the northwest of the city, with views over the Golden Gate Bridge. Most of the surrounding Lincoln Park Golf Course is on the site of a potter's field called the "Golden Gate Cemetery" that the City had bought in 1867. The cemetery was closed in 1908 and the bodies were relocated to Colma. During seismic retrofitting in the 1990s, however, coffins and skeletal remains were unearthed.[2]

The plaza and fountain in front of the Palace of the Legion of Honor is the western terminus of the Lincoln Highway, the first road across America. The terminus marker and an interpretive plaque are located in the southwest corner of the plaza and fountain, just to the left of the Palace.


The museum contains a representative collection of mainly European art, the largest portion of which is French. Its most distinguished collection is of sculpture by Auguste Rodin. Casts of all his most famous statues are on display, including one of The Thinker in the forecourt. However there are individual works by many other artists, including François Boucher, Rembrandt, Gainsborough, David, El Greco, Rubens, and many of the Impressionists and post-ImpressionistsDegas, Renoir, Monet, Pissarro, Seurat, Cézanne and others. There are also representative works by key twentieth century figures such as Braque and Picasso, and works of contemporary artists like Gottfried Helnwein and Robert Crumb.

The collection is managed by the Fine Arts Museums of San Francisco, which also manages the De Young Museum, for which a new building was completed (2005) in Golden Gate Park.

The Legion is hosting the first comparative study of the work of the three greatest jewelry and decorative arts designers at the turn of the 20th century: Peter Carl Fabergé, Louis Comfort Tiffany, and René Lalique. The special exhibit runs from February 7, 2009 — May 31, 2009.

The Grand Canal, Venice, 1908

Collection highlights

Symphonic organ

Organ at California Palace of the Legion Of Honor.jpg

In 1924 John D. Spreckels commissioned the Ernest M. Skinner Company of Boston to build the symphonic organ. The museum organ, which is housed inside the museum above the main galleries, has 4 manuals and pedals, 7 divisions, 63 ranks, with a total of 4,526 pipes. Symphonic music is especially effective on the museum organ with its battery of pneumatically-operated percussion instruments and set of tubular chimes. A thunder pedal is used for the musical representation of storms. All together, the organ comprises one Great Organ, a Swell Organ, a Choir Organ featuring a 16 foot Contra Dulciana, Choir Organ Echo, a Solo Organ, Solo Organ Echo, an Arch Organ outfitted with 8 foot Arch Clarion, a 64 foot Gravissima and a 32 foot Bourdon Profunda, in addition to the final Traps that were enclosed in the Choir: Bass drum, castanets, Chinese block, crash cymbal, gong snare drum (f), snare drum (ff), and a tambourine triangle.

Proponents have acclaimed that an instrument that is capable of producing these sounds, (similar to that of an orchestra), is a work of art, no matter its outright visual appeal. The organ's console, made of mahogany, ivory, and ebony, is located in the A.B. and Alma de Bretteville Spreckels Rodin Gallery. The apse of the gallery is canvas, painted to look like marble in order to allow the organ to "speak" through the dome. The frieze over the main entrance to the museum is made of plaster and can be opened so that the music can be heard in the Court of Honor also containing ten large tubular chimes and a heroic fanfare register concealed behind doors that can be opened during performances. The museum hosts a weekly organ recital from 4:00-5:00pm every Saturday and Sunday.


Film Appearance

  • The Palace is seen in the Alfred Hitchcock movie Vertigo (1958) when Scottie follows Madeleine Elster to the museum, where she stares at one painting for a considerable time.

See also


External links

Coordinates: 37°47′04″N 122°30′03″W / 37.784495°N 122.500767°W / 37.784495; -122.500767


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