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Prudential Plaza

Newark, NJ

Lobby wall above elevator banks, side panels

Pillars of Hercules, side panels, 1960

Commissioned by: Voorhees, Walker, Smith, Smith & HainesMedium: marble mosaicExecuted by: FoscatoRelocated to: The Center for Hellenic Studies, Washington, DC

Hildreth Meière’s final corporate commission was three large mosaic panels to decorate the walls above the elevator banks at Prudential Plaza in Newark, New Jersey. As her theme for the mural, Meière depicted the Pillars of Hercules in recognition of the Prudential Insurance Company’s logo, the Rock of Gibraltar. Meière created a narrative Art Deco design influenced by ancient Greek vase painting. It represents Hercules sailing through the Strait of Gibraltar, with The Pillars of Hercules on either side.1

Prudential Plaza lobby with three-panel, marble mosaic of the Pillars of Hercules above the elevator banks

Prudential Plaza lobby with three-panel, marble mosaic of the Pillars of Hercules above the elevator banks

Meière’s three large marble mosaic panels remained in place at Prudential Plaza until the lobby was renovated in 1998-99. At that time the center panel, 12 x 15 feet, and the two side panels, each 12 x 18 feet, were removed and placed in storage. Extensive damage to the Pillars of Hercules occurred during this process.

Detail of damaged right panel of the Pillars of Hercules

Detail of damaged right panel of the Pillars of Hercules

In 2013, Antonio Davide Schiavo, who had been head mosaicist at the Foscato factory in Long Island City in 1960 and responsible for the original fabrication of the panels, came out of retirement to work with master mosaicist Steven Miotto on their restoration.

Steven Miotto (left) and Antonio Davide Schiavo (right) restoring the Pillars of Hercules

Steven Miotto (left) and Antonio Davide Schiavo (right) restoring the Pillars of Hercules

Once the restoration was complete, Prudential Insurance Company gave the two restored side panels to Harvard University’s Center for Hellenic Studies in Washington, D.C., where architect Richard Williams reconfigured the rear wall of the interior open air courtyard and the interior wall of the library to accommodate the panels. Appropriately, Meière’s imagery of the Strait of Gibraltar that originally made reference to Prudential Insurance Company’s logo also reflects the mission of the Center for Hellenic Studies by symbolizing the opening of new frontiers for the study of the ancient world.

Left panel from the Pillars of Hercules installed in library at the Center for Hellenic Studies

Left panel from the Pillars of Hercules installed in library at the Center for Hellenic Studies

Right panel from the Pillars of Hercules installed in courtyard at the Center for Hellenic Studies

Right panel from the Pillars of Hercules installed in courtyard at the Center for Hellenic Studies

Prudential also gave the center panel depicting Hercules to the Newark Museum, where it is installed in the atrium.

1

For a full discussion see Catherine Coleman Brawer and Kathleen Murphy Skolnik, The Art Deco Murals of Hildreth Meière (New York: Andrea Monfried Editions, 2014) :161-67, and Brawer, Walls Speak: The Narrative Art of Hildreth Meière (St. Bonaventure, New York: St. Bonaventure University, 2009): 100-03.

Commission Location

Emblem

The Center for Hellenic Studies
3100 Whitehaven Street, NW.
Washington, DC 20008

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