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Christ Church Cranbrook

Bloomfield Hills, MI

St. Paul's Chapel altarpiece

Link between the Old Dispensation and the New, 1929

Commissioned by: Mayers, Murray & PhillipMedium: oil and gold leaf on wood panelExecuted by: Hildreth MeièreAdditional fabricators: Louis Ross, woodwork

St. Paul’s Chapel, 1982. Jack Kausch, photographer. Courtesy Cranbrook Archives

St. Paul’s Chapel, 1982. Jack Kausch, photographer. Courtesy Cranbrook Archives

In 1928 the rector of Christ Church Cranbrook, Dr. Samuel Marquis, sent Hildreth Meière a diagram of the scenes she was to paint on an altarpiece for St. Paul’s Chapel.1

Plan for the reredos [altarpiece] in St. Paul’s Chapel, Christ Church Cranbrook. Courtesy Cranbrook Archives, George Gough Booth Papers, 21:9

Plan for the reredos [altarpiece] in St. Paul’s Chapel, Christ Church Cranbrook. Courtesy Cranbrook Archives, George Gough Booth Papers, 21:9

According to the diagram, Meière was to represent the theme of St. Paul: the Link between the Old Dispensation and the New:

It was [St. Paul] who declared that the Law had been done away—that love had taken its place. It is this transition that is depicted in the three main panels. The Law given on Sinai [by Moses]—The Law done away in the sacrifice on Mount Calvary [the Crucifixion]; Paul preaching the new Gospel of Love to the people on Mars Hill.2
Detail of altarpiece in St. Paul’s Chapel

Detail of altarpiece in St. Paul’s Chapel

As specified on the diagram, Meière painted figures in individual panels along the top of the altarpiece. Above Moses, she depicted Aaron and Joshua; above the Crucifixion, she painted the Transfiguration, with Moses on the left and Elias on the right; above Paul preaching, she represented St. Barnabas and St. Timothy. Meière left space on either side of the center panel for a column composed of three stacked, sculpted figures of Prophets and Evangelists.

The scenes that Meière painted on the predella were not indicated on the plan. They include the following parables: the Kingdom of Heaven is like a Net, the Parable of the Leaven, the Parable of the Sower of Seeds, and the Parable of the Good Samaritan. The center scene on the predella has not been identified:

From left to right: Kingdom of Heaven is like a Net; Parable of the Leaven; unidentified scene; Parable of Sower of Seeds; Parable of the Good Samaritan

From left to right: Kingdom of Heaven is like a Net; Parable of the Leaven; unidentified scene; Parable of Sower of Seeds; Parable of the Good Samaritan

The altarpiece was elaborately carved by Louis Ross. His intricate workmanship can be seen in the carving of the canopies above the figures of Saints Barnabas and Timothy:

Detail of wood carving by Louis Ross, with Saint Barnabas and Saint Timothy by Meière

Detail of wood carving by Louis Ross, with Saint Barnabas and Saint Timothy by Meière

1

Dr. Samuel S. Marquis, Plan for the reredos [altarpiece] in St. Paul’s Chapel, Christ Church Cranbrook, with summary of iconography, [1928]. George Gough Booth Papers, 21:9, Cranbrook Archives, Bloomfield Hills, Michigan.

2

Marquis, diagram.

Commission Location

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Christ Church Cranbrook
470 Church Road
Bloomfield Hills, MI 48304

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