'Violence' for the Chapel of the Ascension
Pen and ink; signed and titled
12¾ x 5¾ inches
Illustrated in The Manchester Quarterly, Vol XXIII, 1904, published for The Manchester Literary Club by Sherratt and Hughes, pp 103-104
This study was for the Chapel of the Ascension in Bayswater, London, envisaged by its benefactress Emelia Russell Gurney as a sanctuary ‘wherein body, mind, and spirit, oppressed within the hurrying roar of the city’s life, might find repose’ (Manchester Quarterly, XXIV, 1898, p 98). After meeting Frederic Shields in 1882, she commissioned him to decorate the Chapel’s interior, sending both Shields and architect Herbert Horne to the church of Santa Maria Maggiore della Pietrasanta in Naples for inspiration. When, finally, the exterior of the building was completed in 1894, Shields began work on his series of murals and panels depicting heavily symbolic, often esoteric, imagery from both the Old and New Testaments, many of which the artist himself discusses in his pamphlet Chapel of the Ascension: Its Story and Scheme (12 editions published by the Women’s Printing Society between 1897 and 1935). The Chapel and its painting scheme - Shield’s life’s work - was destroyed during the Blitz.
'Violence' and 'Deceit' appeared on either side of the Passion of the Christ, for ‘Deceit and Violence compassed his Betrayal and Crucifixion’ (Manchester Quarterly, Vol XXIII, 1904, p 103-4). Shields imagines ‘a cruel armed being, trampling proudly on his victim, bearing a huge dragon-hilted sword and fetters, and attired in a lion's skin; "violence covereth them as with a garment;" "he pursued his brother with the sword, and did cast off all pity." Therefore has he eyes as a tiger's, their sight obscured by the mist of vain glory issuing from the jaws of the serpent that, wreathed about him, inspires his malignity. And since Violence is closely allied with traffic and its covetousness, he is laden with bags of gold - and a ship with merchandise is introduced’ (Manchester Quarterly, Vol XXIII, 1904, p 103-4).