Sunday, 12 August 2012

Song School

Last year I dropped in on the Mansfield Traquair centre where I saw the marvellous murals painted by Pheobe Anna Traquair. It's not open very often. Across the town is another building decorated with Mrs Traquair's murals. These are at the Song School of St Mary's Cathedral which is only open to the public only during the festival. These murals were painted between 1888 and 1892 and predate the Mansfield Traquair. Though on a smaller scale they are just as delightful.

Many of the figures on the wall represent prominent people from the time the murals were painted. The angel here is holding onto Henry Morton Stanley, the explorer who is best remembered these days for uttering the phrase, "Dr. Livingstone, I presume?" Dr. Livingstone can be seen behind him.

Most left in this picture is William Blake and next to him stands Dante. 

The younger of the priests in this picture is Father Damien who established a leper colony on the Hawaiian island of Molokai. He contracted leprosy himself and died in 1889. The other priest is Cardinal Newman who was leading spiritual figure who died in the same year this wall was painted, 1890.

Many of the paintings around the border illustrate scenes from the creation

This isn't the most expensive work of art in the World. The scaffolding and preparation of the walls for painting cost £7 and 10 shillings - even allowing for inflation, I can't imagine this being extortionate. Pheobe didn't take a fee for the painting - I'd like to think that somebody brought her a cup of tea from time to time.

This wall shows some of the people involved in building the cathedral - the chap on the left with the pallet is James Clerk, the George Street decorator who prepared the wall for painting. There are some suspicions as to who the middle character could be and nobody has any idea who the other fellow is.

Either side of the East wall are paintings of the choir and cathedral and song school officials. As well as these being actual portraits, the angels on the walls are also based on real people, sisters, friends, wives and members of the choir and congregation.

The East wall also features scenes from the life of Christ. Most, though not all, of the other figures in the building look towards Christ.

Around the feet of many of the characters are some gorgeous flowers.

Holding the book here is Alfred Tennyson, he is followed, also in red, by Robert Browning and looking straight out of the wall, Dante Gabriel Rossetti.

Looking back is Sir Joseph Noel Paton, you could occupy long time just looking at his two paintings from A Midsummer Night Dream in the Scottish National Gallery on the Mound. Just behind him is Thomas Carlyle and the chap in the skullcap is George Fredrick Watts, the painter and sculptor.

Less well known are the precentor and sub-organist of the cathedral and a figure representing Summer.

Tucked into the doorway on the North wall is this self portrait. She portrays herself asleep. No doubt exhausted after 4 years of painting. I wonder if she realised then that her next big work was going to take 8 years.


Sinbad and I on the Loose said...

I wonder why the flames at the feet of Stanley & Livingston. Dante would make more sense. The scene of the workers building the cathedral has a Diego Rivera flavor to it. Great work Pheobe did.

Shundo said...

Indeed, Sinbad, I hadn't heard that Stanley or Livingstone were in imminent danger of being cooked by cannibals. These are all very beautiful, and I particularly like the hands at work in the creation images. You're on a great roll, Sandy.

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Ellie said...

These are lovely Sandy, I've not ever heard of this artist before. I always learn something coming to your blog :))

Sandy's witterings said...

John, I did wonder about the flames myself. Deigo Rivera was 2 when these murals were started - perhaps he has some flavour of Pheobe in him.

Shundo, you mention the creation scenes as John mentions similarities between artist. There seems a link between these diamond shaped pictures and Blake (who is pictures) to me

Good luck in your flag collecting Teuvo

She's not hugely well known, though she ought to be, Ellie. Mind you three of here biggest works are attached quite firmly to walls which aren't open very often. If you're ever in the gallery on the mound in Edinburgh, they have 4 magnificent embroideries by her of which this is one

The Glebe Blog said...

I wonder if there was a connection between her husband Ramsey Heatley Traquair and Traquair House Sandy. It's not a name I've come across much in my lifetime.
She was quite a prolific artist wasn't she.

Janet at New Moon Glass said...

Wow...gorgeous murals...very cool!