"There I am," said Clare Boothe Luce, pointing to an angel on the wall of the National Portrait Gallery.
Sure enough, the playwright, former ambassador to Italy and widow of Henry Luce (known as "angel face" in her youth) looked like the heavenly, winged creature in the picture, hovering near the dome of the Capitol and blowing a trumpet while the first inauguration of Franklin Delano Roosevelt took place below.
The picture at last night's reception was a lithograph of a mock-ceremonial painting by "Miguel Covarrubias, Painter Extraordinary and Historiographer to the Court on the Potomac," as published in the March 1933 issue of Vanity Fair magazine. It was a focus of the exhibit of the Mexican artist's work that opened last night, together with a photo display commemorating 100 years of the Metropolitan Opera.
"I gave the original to Bernard Baruch," recalled Luce, who was managing editor of Vanity Fair at the time. "Now it can't be found." In another corner, Supreme Court Justice Byron White was chatting with Lois Fern, wife of the gallery's director, Alan Fern. "Was it love of opera or love of cartoons that brought you here tonight?" she asked. "It was love of you, my dear," said the gallant jurist. "I hope that's the right answer."
"Actually," White quickly explained, "I love the museum. I often stroll over here from the court on my lunch hour and spend 15 or 20 minutes looking at the portraits."
In several rooms, opera lovers flocked to view photos of nearly all the great singers who have performed at the Met during the past century -- that is, nearly all the great singers who have performed anywhere, from Nellie Melba in the dim past to Teresa Stratas in the present. Domingo is there as Otello, Melchior as Tristan, Caruso and Ponselle in many roles -- not to mention a gown worn by Licia Albanese and Caruso's clown suit for "I Pagliacci."
A few rooms away, Luce stood in front of a portrait of herself 50 years ago in her office at Vanity Fair. Were there really two phones on her desk as in the portrait, she was asked. "Oh, yes," she said, "three or four. It was a very busy magazine before it folded."