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St. Thomas Church

New York, NY

Remembrance shrine

Two Angels, 1935

Medium: paint, gesso, and gold enamel on woodExecuted by: Hildreth Meière

Remembrance shrine with doors open

Remembrance shrine with doors open

In 1935 Meière painted a remembrance shrine for St. Thomas Church on Fifth Avenue in New York. The shrine was designed to house the Book of Remembrance containing the names of people and events associated with the development of the parish. A contemporary news article described it:

This shrine, in the ambulatory on the epistle side of the chancel, holds the Book of Remembrance of St. Thomas Church. Its design is in keeping with the general Gothic structure, blending with the surrounding woodwork and enriching the approach to the Chapel of the Resurrection. When the doors of the shrine are open they reveal two beautifully designed angels, painted by the artist Hildreth Meière, in the special gold enamel process she has developed.1
Detail of Two Angels on inside of doors

Detail of Two Angels on inside of doors

Even though she was decorating a free-standing shrine, Meière was sensitive to the Gothic Revival style of the church’s architecture. In designing the pair of angels for the inside of the doors, Meière drew from the pose of late medieval tomb figures and the liturgical vestments of the late Middle Ages. She then reinterpreted the medieval prototypes in her Art Deco style, fleshing out the angels’ faces and lending texture to their hair, feathered wings, and flaming chalices.

Augustus Welby Pugin, “English Priests, from Monumental Effigies Shewing the application of the various patterns, drawn out at large” in Bernard Smith: Glossary of Ecclesiastical Ornament and Costume, compiled from ancient authorities and examples. (London: 1868, third edition), pl. 4. University of Glasgow, Sp Coll Mu6-x.17

Augustus Welby Pugin, “English Priests, from Monumental Effigies Shewing the application of the various patterns, drawn out at large” in Bernard Smith: Glossary of Ecclesiastical Ornament and Costume, compiled from ancient authorities and examples. (London: 1868, third edition), pl. 4. University of Glasgow, Sp Coll Mu6-x.17

For Meière, the remembrance shrine represented a small commission during the Great Depression, at which time she wrote to several architects about possible jobs:

I can paint any type of altarpiece, wall panel or mural, but I can also design for marble, ceramics, glass mosaic, and polychrome, or decorate wood or leather. In particular, I have some ideas about leather vestibule doors, based on my experience with some in the Nebraska Capitol. As to price, I am willing to take what the job can pay. . . . Last winter I did a pair of angels on the doors of a shrine at St. Thomas’ for $259. . . . That is not my ideal price, but I’m willing to do any type of job, no matter how small.2
1

“Episcopal Clergy to Pray at Remembrance Shrine,” New York World Telegram, April 6, 1935.

2

Hildreth Meière, letter to Mr. Robb, January 18, 1936, Hildreth Meière Papers, Archives of American Art, Smithsonian Institution, Washington, DC.

Additional Resources

Commission Location

Emblem

Saint Thomas Church
1 West 53rd Street
New York, NY 10019

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