St. Martin ?>

St. Martin's Episcopal Church

Providence, RI

Altarpiece

Adoration of Magi; Christ Healing the Blind Man; Christ's Charge to the Apostles, 1924

Commissioned by: Bertram Grosvenor GoodhueIconographer: Rev. Dr. Arthur L. WashburnMedium: oil and gold leaf on wood panelExecuted by: Hildreth MeièreAdditional fabricators: Frank Humrich, gilding; Irving & Casson, woodwork

Main altarpiece with Adoration of the Magi, Christ Healing the Blind Man, and Christ

Main altarpiece with Adoration of the Magi, Christ Healing the Blind Man, and Christ's Charge to the Apostles

Bertram Grosvenor Goodhue commissioned Meière to paint a complex altarpiece for St. Martin’s Church in Providence in January 1924, while her designs were being applied to the dome of the Great Hall at the National Academy of Sciences. The commission involved “the painting of the nine panels on the reredos, five panels on the predella, and the figures, foliage and shields on the folding doors.”1 Meière was still at the early stage of painting the altarpiece when Goodhue died in April. His successor firm Bertram Goodhue Associates saw the commission through to completion.

Diagram of iconography on main altarpiece, 1968

Diagram of iconography on main altarpiece, 1968

For the central scene, Meière depicted the Adoration of the Magi. The panel to the left shows Christ Healing the Blind Man; the panel to the right, Christ's Charge to the Apostles.2 To the left of Christ Healing the Blind Man, Meière depicted two scenes from the Life of St. Martin. On top is St. Martin Dividing His Coat with a Beggar, and below is the Baptism of St Martin. On the right of Christ’s Charge to the Apostles, Meière depicted two additional scenes from the Life of St. Martin. On top is St. Martin Leaves the Legion to Join the Church; below is the Death of Bishop Martin of Tours. On the far right and left are groups of saints.

Center panels of main altarpiece with predella below

Center panels of main altarpiece with predella below

The predella at the base of the altarpiece represents five historical scenes: St. Ambrose repelling the Emperor Theodosius from the Door of the Church, the Baptism of Clovis, the Adoration of the Lamb, St. Gregory and the Anglo Saxons at Rome, and Columbus Discovers America. Above the predella are instruments of the Passion.

Meière described the process of creating her figures:

I've counted nine processes for each figure - the pencil drawing - the tracing - the transfer of the tracing to the big sketch - the painting of the sketch - the transfer of the outline to the panel - the painting in of the flat silhouette - the tracing of the lines onto the silhouette - the laying in of the flat colour - and then finally the lining and finishing.3

The gilding of the altarpiece was done by Goodhue’s gilder, Frank Humrich. The wooden frame of the altarpiece was carved by Irving & Casson.

Meière paid close attention to the natural characteristics of the wood panels on which she painted, allowing the grain of the rosewood to show through the door panels as part of the design:4

Individual saints on left door panel

Individual saints on left door panel

Individual saints on right door panel

Individual saints on right door panel

1

Bertram Grosvenor Goodhue, letter to Hildreth Meière, January 28, 1924, Hildreth Meière Papers, Archives of American Art, Smithsonian Institution, Washington, DC.

2

Photographs of studies for these scenes are in the HM Papers.

3

Meière, letter to mother June 29, 1924, HM Papers.

4

Meière, letter to mother, July 1, 1924, HM Papers.

Additional Resources

Commission Location

Emblem

St Martins Episcopal Church
50 East Orchard Avenue
Providence, RI 02906

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