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Cathedral Basilica of Saint Louis

St. Louis, MO

North wall surrounding rose window

Two Drinking Deer and Meandering Grapevine, 1958

Commissioned by: George John MaguoloMedium: Byzantine-style glass mosaicExecuted by: Ravenna Mosaics

Hildreth Meière’s work in the main sanctuary of the Cathedral Basilica of Saint Louis includes nine commissions in Byzantine-style glass mosaic designed between 1945 and 1961.1

North wall with Two Drinking Deer and Meandering Grapevine surrounding rose window

North wall with Two Drinking Deer and Meandering Grapevine surrounding rose window

North dome (Twelve Apostles) and north wall with Two Drinking Deer and Meandering Grapevine

North dome (Twelve Apostles) and north wall with Two Drinking Deer and Meandering Grapevine

In 1957, Meière decorated the north wall surrounding the rose window with Two Drinking Deer and Meandering Grapevine, symbolizing the Eucharist.

Faherty, William Barnaby, The Great Saint Louis Cathedral, 1988.

Faherty, William Barnaby, The Great Saint Louis Cathedral, 1988.

Meière repeated the blue ground of Dome of the Twelve Apostles as the ground for her Two Drinking Deer and Meandering Grapevine on the north wall surrounding the rose window:

Detail of Drinking Deer and Meandering Grapevine surrounding the rose window on right side of north wall

Detail of Drinking Deer and Meandering Grapevine surrounding the rose window on right side of north wall

The early Byzantine prototype for Meière’s design is a fifth-century mosaic of Two Drinking Deer and Meandering Grapevine in the Mausoleum of Galla Placidia in Ravenna, Italy, which she reinterpreted in her Art Deco style.

North wall surrounding rose window with Two Drinking Deer and Meandering Grapevine

North wall surrounding rose window with Two Drinking Deer and Meandering Grapevine

Mausoleum of Galla Placidia © mountainpix/shutterstock.com

Mausoleum of Galla Placidia © mountainpix/shutterstock.com

The symbolism alludes to Psalm 42: “As a deer longs for flowing streams, so my soul longs for you, O God.” The Meandering Grapevine symbolizes the Eucharist, and the Two Drinking Deer represent the faithful seeking the grace of Christ in the sacrament.

Meière made a series of sketches for the north wall with the Two Drinking Deer and Meandering Grapevine, first in graphite and then in gouache:2

Two Drinking Deer and Meandering Grapevine, study in graphite

Two Drinking Deer and Meandering Grapevine, study in graphite

Two Drinking Deer and Meandering Grapevine, study in gouache

Two Drinking Deer and Meandering Grapevine, study in gouache

She made certain that her wall design would read clearly from fifty feet below. Her full-scale cartoon for each deer required two sheets of four-foot-wide brown cartoon paper.3 Despite their distance from the viewer, Meière’s rendering of the Drinking Deer and the fish in the stream reveals her attention to naturalistic detail within her stylized Art Deco scheme.

Cartoons for Drinking Deer on right side of north wall

Cartoons for Drinking Deer on right side of north wall

Drinking Deer on right side of north wall in glass mosaic

Drinking Deer on right side of north wall in glass mosaic

Meière echoed her designs at the north end of the cathedral basilica in her decoration of the south end as a means of unifying the vast space. In addition to referring back to her design of the Dome of the Twelve Apostles in her design of the south dome, she repeated the pattern of the Meandering Grapevine on the walls separating the windows of the dome:

South dome

South dome

Detail of windows and walls with Meandering Grapevine on south dome

Detail of windows and walls with Meandering Grapevine on south dome

Meière also used a variation of the Meandering Grapevine from her Two Drinking Deer and Meandering Grapevine to decorate the south wall surrounding the rose window:

North wall surrounding rose window with Two Drinking Deer and Meandering Grapevine

North wall surrounding rose window with Two Drinking Deer and Meandering Grapevine

South wall surrounding rose window with variation of Meandering Grapevine

South wall surrounding rose window with variation of Meandering Grapevine

1

For a full discussion, see Catherine Coleman Brawer, Walls Speak: The Narrative Art of Hildreth Meière (St. Bonaventure, New York: St. Bonaventure University, 2009): 90-99 and Brawer and Kathleen Murphy Skolnik, The Art Deco Murals of HIldreth Meière (New York: Andrea Monfried Editions, 2014): 118-31.

2

The studies are in the Saint Louis University Archives DOC REC 50 (Ravenna Mosaic Company Records).

3

Cartoons for the Two Drinking Deer and Meandering Grapevine are in the Archive of the Cathedral Basilica of Saint Louis.

Additional Resources

Commission Location

Emblem

Cathedral Basilica of Saint Louis
4421 Lindell Boulevard
St. Louis, MO 63108

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