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Ceiling of Grand Central Terminals Main Concourse

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Beautifully restored but astronomically incorrect zodiac tableau

Place Details

Borough : Manhattan
Neighborhood : Midtown
Public Art, Arts and Entertainment, Transportation

Place Matters Profile

There are myriad thing to taste, touch, hear and smell in Grand Central Terminal, but for a truly awesome (and free) experience, all you have to do is head to the Main Concourse, stand still, and look up at the zodiac mural on the ceiling, one of New York City’s most beloved pieces of public art. French pastelist and etcher Paul César Helleu created the vast tableau in 1912. The signs of the zodiac from October to March, including Aquarius (the Water Carrier), Pisces (the Fish), Aries (the Ram), Taurus (the Bull), Gemini (the Twins) and Cancer (the Crab), are depicted along with some of the more familiar constellations like Orion (the Hunter), Pegasus (the Winged Horse), Musca (the Fly) and Triangulum (the Triangle). The signs are outlined in gold leaf and modeled with tiny, stippled gold leaf stars. Helleu included nearly 2,500 stars, but to amplify the effect of...

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Tal Bar-Zemer

Several years ago, I took a group of students to Grand Central Terminal, where we ran into trouble en route to the Transit Museum. Fearing I would have a riot on my hands, I led my students out of the subway and into Grand Centrals Main Concourse. I told them to look up! Not only were their expressions of awe and wonder completely priceless, but they begged to stay in the terminal to continue gaping at the zodiac instead of moving forward with the field trip. (November, 2011)

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