St. Mary ?>

St. Mary's High School

Manhasset, NY

Relief sculptures on facade

Scenes from the life of the Blessed Virgin Mary, 1946

Commissioned by: Raphael HumeMedium: gilded terra cotta on glazed terra cotta tileExecuted by: Federal Seaboard Terra Cotta

Facade of St. Mary’s High School, with Scenes from the Life of the Blessed Virgin Mary

Facade of St. Mary’s High School, with Scenes from the Life of the Blessed Virgin Mary

Hildreth Meière decorated the main facade of St. Mary’s High School in Manhasset, New York with five Scenes from the Life of the Blessed Virgin Mary. The architect Raphael Hume and Meière knew each other through both the Architectural League of New York and the Liturgical Arts Society.

The intended appearance of the facade, before the construction of a parking lot, can be seen in a photograph of Hume’s sketch that he presented to Meière in 1946:

Photograph of sketch by Greville Rickard of St. Mary’s High School, presented to Meiere by Raphael Hume, 1946

Photograph of sketch by Greville Rickard of St. Mary’s High School, presented to Meiere by Raphael Hume, 1946


Detail of main facade of St. Mary’s High School

Detail of main facade of St. Mary’s High School

Meière’s five scenes in high relief on panels measuring seven by ten feet include the Presentation of the Blessed Virgin Mary, the Annunciation, the Nativity, the Descent from the Cross, and the Crowning of the Blessed Virgin Mary. Each of Meière’s individual figurative scenes was sculpted in terra cotta, gilded, and set against a ground of glazed blue terra cotta tile. Typically, Meière turned each figurative scene into a dynamic narrative. Also characteristic of Meière’s designs are her Art Deco touches, as in her treatment of the angel’s flowing hair in the Annunciation:

The Presentation of the Blessed Virgin Mary

The Presentation of the Blessed Virgin Mary

The Annunciation

The Annunciation

The Nativity

The Nativity

The Descent from the Cross

The Descent from the Cross

Hildreth Meière signed the final panel depicting the Crowning of the Blessed Virgin Mary on the lower right:

The Crowning of the Blessed Virgin Mary

The Crowning of the Blessed Virgin Mary

Meière’s studies in gouache on paper show gridlines segmenting the five scenes into sections of tile:

The Annunciation

The Annunciation

Meière offered two possibilities for the final scene—the Assumption or the Crowning of the Blessed Virgin Mary. The latter scene was chosen.

The Assumption

The Assumption

The Crowning of the Blessed Virgin Mary

The Crowning of the Blessed Virgin Mary

She also offered two possible variations of the Nativity, each with a differently shaped manger:

Rejected version of the Nativity

Rejected version of the Nativity

Selected version of the Nativity

Selected version of the Nativity

When she designed the five panels for St. Mary’s High School, Meière was already familiar with the possibilities glazed ceramic tile offered for exterior decoration. Five years earlier she had created a continuous, eighty-one-foot outdoor frieze at the Municipal Center in Washington, DC, in which she had presented ten narrative scenes back to back. In contrast to the separate, monochromatic narrative scenes in high relief on the St. Mary’s facade, Meière had used multi-color convex tiles to depict the health benefits and social services available to Washington residents in 1941:

A social worker helps a mother with two children

A social worker helps a mother with two children

Interestingly, Meière’s glazed terra cotta figures of the Virgin Mary in high relief on the school facade resemble the relief sculptures Our Lady at Prayer and St. Joseph at Work that she designed in wood inlay the same year for the original chapel of the Convent of the Sacred Heart, Greenwich, Connecticut:

The Presentation of the Blessed Virgin Mary

The Presentation of the Blessed Virgin Mary

Our Lady at Prayer and St. Joseph at Work

Our Lady at Prayer and St. Joseph at Work

Additional Resources

Commission Location

Emblem

Saint Mary's High School
51 Clapham Avenue
Manhasset, NY 11030

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