The novelist F. Scott Fitzgerald said it best: "The rich are different from you and me."
Claribel and Etta Cone were rich, they loved beautiful things, and they lived in great style. An invitation to visit the Cones' residence at the Marlborough Apartments on Eutaw Street was considered a privilege that those lucky enough to receive never forgot.
Now, visitors to the newly renovated Cone Wing of the Baltimore Museum of Art can take a virtual stroll through the sumptuous private rooms where the sisters entertained their friends and displayed the magnificent art collection that bears their name.
The virtual tour, designed by the Imaging Research Center at University of Maryland, Baltimore County, digitally re-creates the Cone sisters' Eutaw Place apartments on a 6-by-17-foot rear-projection screen in the BMA's May Gallery (through May 28), and on a smaller touchscreen monitor in the Cone Wing Interpretive Gallery.
Both displays are startlingly lifelike. The Cones' rooms appear just as they were during the sisters' lifetimes, with their furniture, artworks and other decorative objects all occupying their original spaces and projected in perspective to the visitor's constantly changing point of view.
Because the program that runs the tour is interactive, visitors can direct their own progress through the apartments, opening doors and walking down corridors by manipulating a video-game-type joystick or by touching a TV monitor.
You can walk through Claribel's apartment and see Matisse's daring "Blue Nude" in the room she named for it, or admire the "Large Reclining Nude" atop her dining table. In Etta's apartment, Matisse's paintings of women adorn the walls above her carved antique furniture and rich Oriental carpets.
Were the Cones around today it's tempting to think they might share the same reaction to this high-tech simulation of their home as today's generation of youngsters raised on computers and video games: "Way cool!"