'The Deceitful Venomous Tongue' for the Chapel of the Ascension
Pen and ink; signed
12½ x 4¼ inches
Illustrated in the Catalogue to the Memorial Exhibition of the Works of Frederic J Shields ARWS, Alpine Club Gallery, 1911, as The Deceitful Venomous Tongue, p 22
Illustrated in The Manchester Quarterly: a Journal of Literature and Art, Col XXIV 1905, published for the Manchester Literary Club by Sherratt and Hughes, p. 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.
Here is an ‘innocent maiden, full of joy in the blossoming spring time’; she ‘is suddenly bitten by an adder hidden in the grass. "A serpent will bite, without enchantment, and a babbler is no better." (Eccles. x, 11) For what enchantment of sweet Charity, can purge the mischief conceived by the Slanderer's heart, or assure the innocent from the adder's poison under their lips?’ (Manchester Quarterly, XXIV, 1905, p 104-105)