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Nebraska State Capitol

Lincoln, NE

Foyer vaults and arch soffits

Law, Public Spirit, Labor, Religion, 1927

Commissioned by: Bertram Goodhue AssociatesIconographer: Hartley Burr AlexanderArtistic Collaborator: Hartley Burr AlexanderMedium: glazed ceramic tileExecuted by: R. Guastavino

Foyer looking toward rotunda with medallions crowning foyer bays

Foyer looking toward rotunda with medallions crowning foyer bays

To correspond with the black and white floor medallions in marble mosaic denoting the Spirits of the Soil, Vegetation, and Animal Life, Meière designed three ceiling medallions for the foyer domes in which Sibylline figures represent Traditions of the Past, Life of the Present, and Ideals of the Future. The medallions are executed in colorful, glazed ceramic tile set into R. Guastavino’s structural beige acoustic tile of the domes.1

Middle dome of foyer ceiling with Life of the Present in center medallion and Labor, Public Spirit, Law, and Religion on panels for vaults supporting dome

Middle dome of foyer ceiling with Life of the Present in center medallion and Labor, Public Spirit, Law, and Religion on panels for vaults supporting dome

Two bands depicting native trees separate the three domes.2

On left, a cottonwood tree; on right, a hackberry tree

On left, a cottonwood tree; on right, a hackberry tree

On left, a generic pine; on right, a willow

On left, a generic pine; on right, a willow

Also working in glazed ceramic tile, Meière designed four panels at the base of the vaults supporting the center dome of the foyer that represent Labor, Public Spirit, Law, and Religion. On the base of the arch soffits surrounding the windows of each dome, she depicted six themes, each illustrated by a pair of panels. For the first dome, symbolizing the past, she depicted the Family, with the Home Builder and Pioneer Mother on the east wall, and the School, with panels representing the Teacher and the Pupil on the west wall. On the second, or middle dome symbolizing the present, Meière depicted Recreation on the east wall, with the Flower Girl and the Ball Player. On the west wall of the second dome, she depicted Reflection, with the Scholar and the Scientist. On the third dome, closest to the rotunda and symbolizing the future, Meière represented the Sense of Beauty with the Architect and Artist on the east wall. Finally, on the west wall Meière depicted Reverence for Truth, with the Statesman and the Philosopher.

Iconography of foyer ceiling

Iconography of foyer ceiling

In a letter to Alexander, Meière described why “a semi-classical or Biblical treatment’ would be appropriate for her figures in the foyer panels. “ I feel it would be a mistake to do any modern figure or in modern clothes, unless so treated as to become almost universal in period.” She further explained that a certain character was right because of the necessities of the medium:

I am trying to always remember the medium, and not get into something where the real meaning will be marred by a coarseness in the tile. I am after something that will interpret perfectly into tile.3
The Home Builder

The Home Builder

The Pioneer Mother

The Pioneer Mother

The Teacher

The Teacher

The Pupil

The Pupil

Labor

Labor

Law

Law

The Flower Girl

The Flower Girl

The Ball Player

The Ball Player

The Scholar

The Scholar

The Scientist

The Scientist

Public Spirit

Public Spirit

Religion

Religion

The Architect

The Architect

The Artist

The Artist

The Statesmen

The Statesmen

The Philosopher

The Philosopher

1

See Hartley Burr Alexander, “Nebraska State Capitol: ’Synopsis of Decorations and Inscriptions,’” unpublished ms., n.d., Office of the Capitol Commission, Nebraska Capitol Collections, RG01 S)2 B11 F36, p. 17. See also Catherine Coleman Brawer and Kathleen Murphy Skolnik, The Art Deco Murals of Hildreth Meière (New York: Andrea Monfried Editions, 2014): 63.

2

Identification of native trees was provided by the Office of the Nebraska Capitol Commission.

3

Meière, letter to Alexander, January 3, 1926, Hartley Burr Alexander Papers, Ella Strong Denison Library, Scripps College, Claremont California.

Commission Location

Emblem

Nebraska State Capitol
1445 K Street
Lincoln, NE 68509

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