'Deceit' for the Chapel of the Ascension
Pen and ink; signed and titled
12 ¾ x 5¾ inches
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. 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; Deceit is a ‘female figure, all double. Through the smiling mask in her left hand has its double, armed with claws like a bird of prey, and is held backward to receive from the evil spirit, that breathes its false counsel in her ear, the reward of treachery - a bag of silver, marked XXX … With one right hand outstretched in feigned friendship she covers its double fellow, that is held ready to suddenly cast a net over her purposed victim … From her girdle hang the shears of Delilah, with portions of hair caught in them. Under the crumbling earth she treads moulder the buried bones of her dupes, and mists envelop and disguise her form’ (The Manchester Quarterly, Vol XXIII, 1904, p 103-4)