Four Seasons are colorful view in stained glass

Twenty colorful windows -- from homes built between 1870 and 1910 -- have been added to the newly designed Victorian Gallery at the Smith Museum of Stained Glass Windows at Navy Pier.

"The unveiling of the new Victorian windows display enhances what is already a world-class cultural destination," said Leticia Peralta Davis, chief executive officer of the Metropolitan Pier and Exposition Authority. Altogether, the museum, the first of its kind in the nation, presents about 175 windows.

In four newly acquired Art Nouveau windows called The Four Seasons, young women represent spring, summer, autumn and winter. "These windows may have been executed by Art Nouveau master Alphonse Mucha himself when he lived in Chicago from 1906 to 1909," said Rolf Achilles, the curator.

Chicago became a world center of stained glass window installation in the early 1870s because of several factors, such as prolific rebuilding after the Great Chicago Fire and immigration of Europeans to Chicago.

"Chicago became a showcase for Victorian stained glass windows," Achilles said. "More than simply a participant, Chicago became a developer of original ideas that were transported to Europe," he said.

For example, at the 1889 Fair in Paris, the Chicago firm Healy & Millet won the major prize for stained glass. This honor was further heightened when the French government purchased these Chicago-made windows.

The exporting of the city's architectural ideas to Europe occurred most significantly with Adler & Sullivan's Auditorium in 1889. (The ornate building's theater, at Michigan and Congress Expy., is where the Joffrey Ballet presents The Nutcracker, beginning its annual Christmastime run tonight.)

It was the Auditorium building that helped bring attention to Chicago, so much that the city could be considered a serious contender for the 1893 Columbian Exposition.

"It was at the 1893 Columbian Exposition in Chicago that Louis Comfort Tiffany gained the attention that made him a national figure in stained glass," he said.

The museum is in an 800-foot-long series of galleries along the lower level terraces of Festival Hall at Navy Pier, 600 E. Grand. Admission is free. Call (312) 595-5024.

Mysterious island: The island of Madagascar, off the southeastern coast of mainland Africa, has developed tens of thousands of animal and plant species that cannot be found anywhere else on the planet. Photographs document mysterious life-forms in The Natural Wonders of Madagascar, opening today at the Field Museum.

For more than 10 years, Dr. Steve Goodman, a museum biologist, has trekked through the endangered forests of Madagascar, enduring various hazardous conditions, in order to chronicle the remarkable animal and plant life.

For example, the Streaked Tenrec, a species found only in Madagascar, uses quills on its back not for protection, but for communication. The quills quiver, sending ultrasonic messages to other critters of its kind.

In the Spiny Forest, the trees' leaves and bark contain a variety of poisons to reduce consumption by animals and insects. Ninety percent of the flora and fauna contests in the forest are unique to Madagascar.

Goodman and the photographer, Harald Schütz, will present a slide show about their work at 2 p.m. Saturday.

An entire primate family of lemurs also is found just on Madagascar. But the island's biodiversity is threatened by habitat destruction.

Goodman has discovered several new species of birds and mammals. He also co-edited a book, The Natural History of Madagascar (University of Chicago Press). "Madagascar has always been a mysterious island," he said. "Everything remains to be discovered, nothing is commonplace, and all seems new." Goodman hopes the book will generate more scientific study of the island.

The exhibit will run through July 5. The museum is at 1400 S. Lake Shore Drive. Call (312) 922-9410.

Zoo holiday magic: Hundreds of thousands of white lights brighten the Brookfield Zoo as it stays open late during Holiday Magic. This year, colorful lights have been added at Candy Cane Lane (near the Zoo Shop) and at the Blue Moon Lagoon (between the Bird and the Reptile houses).

About 420 trees line the zoo's walkways. Festivities also include magicians, jugglers, ice carvings, live music, dancing, costumed characters, a talking tree, hay rides, the Motor Safari and Mr. and Mrs. Claus.

600450 Four Seasons are colorful view in stained glass

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