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Home for the Elderly

Cleveland, OH

Altarpiece

Christ Preaching, 1947

Commissioned by: Garfield, Harris, Robinson and SchaferMedium: oil and gilt on wood panelExecuted by: Hildreth MeièreNonextant

Altarpiece in original site, c. 1947

Altarpiece in original site, c. 1947

The firm Garfield, Harris, Robinson & Schafer commissioned Hildreth Meière to paint this altarpiece possibly for Madonna Hall. Originally a nonsectarian home for the elderly, Madonna Hall was converted in 1946 into a nursing home for elderly women operated by the Franciscan Sisters of the Blessed Kunegunda. A separate chapel was dedicated on June 26, 1948. The home was purchased by a consortium of doctors in 1970 and ceased to be operated as a Catholic home.1 The whereabouts of the altarpiece, if it still exists, is unknown.

Proposed altarpiece at scale ½ inch to 1 foot in gouache on brown paper. Paper cross indicates height of cross placed on altar in front of painting

Proposed altarpiece at scale ½ inch to 1 foot in gouache on brown paper. Paper cross indicates height of cross placed on altar in front of painting

Larger color study for altarpiece in gouache with gold paint on brown paper

Larger color study for altarpiece in gouache with gold paint on brown paper

Meière’s studies for the altarpiece show a progression from her proposed altarpiece with Christ Preaching in sepia tones to the larger study in color with gold paint. The position of Christ’s head is different in the two studies. Christ’s pose remains the same in the final version as it was in the color study, although Meière has given Christ different facial features.

Meière’s finished altarpiece propped against a wall in her studio

Meière’s finished altarpiece propped against a wall in her studio

The original installation of the altarpiece incorporated wood carvings and inscriptions by an unknown carver. Above the altar, the inscription read:

Come to me all you who labor and are weary laden and I will give you rest

Below Meière’s painting were carved the words:

Man Tends ­ God Mends

On the left side of the altarpiece, the following scenes were carved in wood with inscriptions:

St. Luke Beloved Physician; Christ Healing the Sick; Florence Nightingale, Clara Barton

Carved scenes and inscriptions on the right side included:

Isaiah and King Hezekiah; St. Agnes and the Infirm; S. . . Anointing the Sick

Finally, a brass plaque at bottom of the platform read: Gift of Frances Wick Sherwin.

1

The description of Madonna Hall is taken from The Encyclopedia of Cleveland History, maintained by Case Western Reserve at http://ech.case.edu.