While it’s often said that money does not buy good taste (step into Trump Tower in Midtown to see how true that is), steel magnate Henry Clay Frick had plenty of both. The serenely beautiful limestone mansion he built in 1914 is now the intimate Frick Collection, filled with works by Vermeer, Rembrandt, Ingres, Fragonard, and other European artists, each one a masterpiece.
The collection is relatively small. You can take a leisurely tour of the 16 galleries in less than an hour, with stops to linger in front of the pictures that capture your attention. One that certainly should is Francesco Guardi’s View of Venice, full of vibrant light and dazzling water that will make you yearn for a setting as beautiful and exotic as the scene the artist captures. One is near at hand. Just down the corridor is an atrium filled with exotic palms and statuary surrounding a fountain and pool. The story goes that Frick said he created all this opulence to make business rival Andrew Carnegie’s mansion at 92nd Street and Fifth Avenue, now the Cooper-Hewitt Museum, ‘look like a miner’s shack.’ That would be hard to do, and both houses are rich remnants of New York in the Gilded Age.
Bemelman’s Bar (Carlyle Hotel, 35 E. 76th St) just around the corner is the sort of dim, elegantly hushed place where glamorous characters in old movies set in New York engage in sophisticated banter, as have such real life regulars as Jackie O.