Hidden Carvings: Misericords

Of the many beautiful works of art and ornament at Christ Church Cranbrook, I have noticed one type is much less documented than others: the misericords. I set out to explore the story behind these little hidden carvings. Misericords are hinged wooden seats that swing up to provide a supportive ledge in the choir stalls of churches and cathedrals—the choir, in the architectural sense, is situated within the chancel between the nave and the sanctuary.

CS68

Christ Church Cranbrook choir stalls in the chancel taken from the south aisle of the nave, ca. 1946. Copyright Cranbrook Archives.

The seat appears to be quite ordinary until you lift it up to reveal its carved underside. Traditionally, they were carved with mythological or real animals, foliage, or humorous scenes.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

The history of misericords goes back to the monastic churches of the middle ages, when the monks spent many hours praying in the choir. Their name comes from the Latin ‘miserericordia’ meaning ‘mercy’ or ‘compassion,’ stemming from ‘misereri’ (to have pity) and ‘cor’ (heart). Misericords were introduced into churches and cathedrals around the thirteenth century, so that elder monks could lean on them and didn’t have to stand unaided for the entire service.

AD.10.743

Architectural Drawing for Misericords in Choir Stalls Nos. 1-4 depicting pride, envy, gluttony, and covetousness, January 10, 1928. Bertram Grosvenor Goodhue Associates/Courtesy Cranbrook Archives.

The misericord carvings for Christ Church Cranbrook were drawn by a designer with the initials ‘TCM’ at Bertram Grosvenor Goodhue Associates, who were also the architects of the church itself. The carvings for choir stalls 1-7 depict the seven deadly sins (pride, envy, gluttony, covetousness, anger, sloth, and lust). Choir stalls 8-16 depict more contemporary images reflecting life in 1927, including charlatanism in art, politics, machinery, jazz and prize fighting (8-12) and building the church, speed, big business, and prohibition (13-16).

0 Planes Trains Automobiles

Misericord depicting “Speed,” represented by different modes of transportation (choir stall 14), the metal braces are a later repair. Courtesy Cranbrook Archives.

The misericord design for ‘building the church’ (choir stall 13) is particularly noteworthy for its representation of Oscar Murray and George Gough Booth extending the church by pulling it apart and adding another bay:

0 George and Oscar Murray Pulling Church cropped

Misericord depicting Oscar H. Murray and George Gough Booth lengthening the church (choir stall 13). Courtesy Cranbrook Archives.

In George Gough Booth’s correspondence, I found this letter, which is instructive in discovering the creative process from idea to design to finished object:

1981-1 21-14

Letter from Oscar H. Murray to George Gough Booth regarding the misericord showing the building of the church, July 3, 1928. Copyright Cranbrook Archives.

The letter tells us that the carver used a photograph of George Gough Booth (depicted on the right side of the misericord) to help with the details of the carving.

The misericords were carved by Irving and Casson of Boston, who also carved the screen between the narthex and the nave and the canopied vaulting above the choir stalls. However, the name of the carver is not recorded. Christ Church Cranbrook is celebrating its 90th anniversary on September 29. Also stay tuned for our ‘Ecclesiastical Structures of Detroit’ Day Away trip in the fall.

-Laura MacNewman, Associate Archivist

“His Heart and Soul into each Madonna, Saint, Commoner, or Angel”

Johannes Kirchmayer, also known as John Kirchmayer, was born March 31, 1860, in Oberammergau, Bavaria. Oberammergau is known for its Passion Play, something the whole town participates in every year it is performed. As a young man, Kirchmayer had the role of Joseph (of many-colored-coat fame) in the play. “We have the statement from John, himself, that the ‘Passion Play’ was a great influence in his early life.” (Prouty, p. 18). It meant Kirchmayer was well versed in biblical history, which would serve him well later in life.

The village of Oberammergau is also known for its long tradition of woodcarving. After he learned to carve from his grandfather, and later his Uncle Georg, a professional carver, Kirchmayer spent a number of years taking classes in Augsburg and Munich, Germany, and in London and Paris perfecting his craft. In 1880, at the age of 20, Kirchmayer moved to Boston, Massachusetts. There, he found work creating mantels, stairways, home decorations, and furniture. However, his greatest passion seems to have been ecclesiastical works, perhaps influenced by the Oberammergau Passion Plays of his youth.

CEC1844.jpg

Undated portrait of Johannes Kirchmayer (1860-1930). Courtesy Cranbrook Archives

Kirchmayer’s friend Stanford White, an architect, introduced him to a number of other architects. He soon found work with cabinetmaking and decorating firms that were working on commissions in churches, businesses, institutions, and private homes. Kirchmayer had close working relations with a number of prominent architects and artisans and was, in 1907, a founding member of the Society of Arts and Crafts, Boston.

After 1898, working for the Boston furniture and architectural woodworking firm Irving and Casson, Kirchmayer worked on the buildings of the noted American Gothic-revivalist Ralph Adams Cram, a prolific architect of collegiate and ecclesiastical buildings.

Kirchmayer’s notable work around Boston include carvings in The Church of the Advent; All Saints’ Church; the Second Church; and Unity Church. He also designed part of the Anderson Memorial Bridge over the Charles River.

His work outside the Boston area includes carvings in Christ Church Cathedral, Springfield, MA; the Church of Saint Mary the Virgin, West 46th Street, New York City; St. Mary’s Anglican Church, Windsor, Ontario; the Church of the Saviour, Syracuse, New York; and the James J. Hill House, St. Paul, Minnesota.

Shirley Prouty, his biographer, wrote that “John Kirchmayer did not use drawings, charts, or schematics to immortalize his saints; He studied and planned and started with a block of wood. On this piece of oak, mahogany, boxwood, cherry (he used many kinds of wood), he would draw the nude figure. He had studied anatomy as a student in Augsburg, thereby learning to proportion arms and hands, legs and feet, and an overall balanced subject. This preliminary sketch on wood was in charcoal. Then he would draw the draperies in color as they would appear in the final rendition.” (p. 27)

George G. Booth made Kirchmayer’s acquaintance through their Arts and Crafts activities and soon became one of his most ardent patrons. Booth commissioned Kirchmayer to produce carvings for Christ Church Cranbrook, Cranbrook House, and the Booth Collection of decorative arts at the Detroit Museum of Art.

CECT75_4_19.jpg

1918 carved portrait of George G. Booth, in Cranbrook House Library, by Kirchmayer. Courtesy Cranbrook Center for Collections and Research.

It is said that Kirchmayer “put his heart and soul into each Madonna, saint, commoner, or angel he was carving.” (Prouty, p. 29). He also followed the old Bavarian custom of leaving one’s visage somewhere in your work.

At Christ Church Cranbrook, Kirchmayer’s works include the “Doubting Thomas Door,” which features images of the craftsmen who worked on the church, including Kirchmayer; the ornamental screen covering the wall at the back above high altar with “Triumphant Christ” at the top; the Lectern; the Chapel Doors and Lectern in the Resurrection Chapel; and a Madonna in Parish House.

doubting_thomas.jpg

“Doubting Thomas Door,” Christ Church Cranbrook. Courtesy Cranbrook Archives.

kirchmayer_doubting_thomas (2)

Kirchmayer left his visage as the woodcarver on the “Doubting Thomas Door”. Courtesy Cranbrook Archives.

At Brookside School, Kirchmayer created corbels (projections jutting out from a wall) of the four Evangelists.

brookside detail 4.jpg

Corbel representing St. John the Evangelist at Brookside School. Courtesy Cranbrook Center for Collections and Research.

At Cranbrook House, Kirchmayer carved many works. The largest commission was the impressive paneling of the Library, including the “Personification of the Arts (Religion Inspiring the Arts)” overmantel, which featured Kirchmayer as the woodcarver.

CCR_08_03

Kirchmayer’s “Personification of the Arts (Religion Inspiring the Arts)”over-mantel in Cranbrook House Library. Photograph by P.D. Rearick, Courtesy Cranbrook Center for Collections and Research.

CCR_08_10

Detail of Kirchmayer’s “Personification of the Arts (Religion Inspiring the Arts)” over-mantel in Cranbrook House Library. Note that the woodcarver (behind the bishop) is depicted as Kirchmayer himself. Photograph by P.D. Rearick, Courtesy Cranbrook Center for Collections and Research.

CCR_08_12

Detail of Kirchmayer’s “Personification of the Arts (Religion Inspiring the Arts)” over-mantel in Cranbrook House Library. Photograph by P.D. Rearick, Courtesy Cranbrook Center for Collections and Research.

He also created items like a reading desk and bench; linen-fold paneling in Oak Room; a blanket chest; four carved Gothic finials in the corners of the Library; and a small figure of himself for the Booths. George G. Booth particularly enjoyed his reading desk and bench, which Kirchmayer created for the Booths’ library in 1919 from a sketch that Booth had supplied. (Prouty, p 100).

CEC1842.jpg

Snapshot of Johannes Kirchmayer in front of the New Silver Beach Hotel in North Falmouth, MA, circa 1928. Courtesy Cranbrook Archives.

Kirchmayer’s work can be found in many prominent cities: from Minneapolis-St Paul, to Detroit, Chicago, Pittsburgh, Columbus and Quincy, Ohio, Baltimore, Washington D.C., New Haven, New York City, Providence, Boston, Concord and Peterborough, New Hampshire, Portland, Maine, as well as in The American Church in Manila and in Walkerville, Ontario, Canada. Perhaps his prolific work across the globe is the reason why, shortly before his death, Kirchmayer received the “Craftsmanship Medal for Distinguished Achievement in Wood Carving” by the American Institute of Architects. It is the only time the award has been given for woodcarving.

Johannes Kirchmayer died at his Cambridge, Massachusetts home in 1930.

– Leslie S. Mio, Associate Registrar

Sources:

Johannes Kirchmayer from Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Johannes_Kirchmayer

Mark A. Coir, Cranbrook Art Museum: 100 Treasures (Bloomfield Hills, MI: Cranbrook Art Museum, 2004)

Shirley Prouty, Master Carver, Johannes Kirchmayer, 1860-1930: From Germany’s Passion Play Village to America’s Finest Sanctuaries (Portsmouth, N.H. : Peter Randall Publishers, 2007

A Final Reflection (2002-2018)

The “bananas went a-missing” and Kingswood School’s Chiquita Banana Scholarship. The thief who stole the (attributed to) Rembrant Peale portrait of George Washington and the mysterious return of Perseus on the porch of the Thornlea Studio Archives. Gates and andirons and architectural details like the lead conductors at Cranbrook House designed by New York metalsmith Oscar Bach. Cranbrook’s mid-century modern Edison House, the House of the Poet (never realized thank goodness!), Chanticleer Cottage (which used to be the chicken house), Walnut Cottage, Tower Cottage, and Brookside Cottage (also known as the Honeymoon Cottage or Stonybrook) which evolved from the original pump house.

Unidentified man on bridge (no, it is NOT George Booth) with the pump house in the background, ca 1915

And the people! The Italians who literally moved mountains of dirt and rocks, graded the roads, and built the stone walls and beautiful rock gardens that lined the campus.

Landscape architect Edward Eichstaedt, who designed the original planting plan around Jonah Pools and later worked on landscape design for Eero Saarinen’s General Motors Technical Center. The women who left their mark at Christ Church Cranbrook – Kathryn McEwen, Hildreth Meière, and silversmith Elizabeth Copeland. Cranbrook School’s art teacher John Cunningham and his mosaics (which can still be seen today) Kingswood School’s French teacher, Marthe Le Loupp, and Brookside’s dietician Flora Leslie.

Eichstaedt’s 1934 Planting Plan for the Lower basins

Notable national celebrities connected to Cranbrook: Leonard Bernstein, Dave Brubeck, Amelia Earhart, Henry Ford, Eleanor Roosevelt, and Anne Morrow Lindbergh to name just a few. But perhaps most interesting to me was learning the stories of those not so well known: Ebba Wicks Brown – the first registered female architect in the state of Oregon who came to Cranbrook to study architecture with Eliel Saarinen. Colonel Edwin S. George, a Detroit businessman and philanthropist who was affiliated with Cranbrook in a variety of ways – most notably for his contributions to the Institute of Science. Myrtle Hall – the first African American model at the Cranbrook Academy of Art and Cleo Dorman – another model who was infamous for collecting paintings of her done by famous artists. And so many, many more names still swirling around in my brain.

Curatorial scholars at work

Perhaps my greatest joy here has been to help researchers find the answer to their questions, and to guide them towards collections that they might not have thought of – which has often led to a change in the course of their research. I am very proud of the fact that Cranbrook Archives has an international reputation for exemplary service and for being so organized and easy to use. I will miss working with the many students, faculty, staff, researchers, and scholars as you have taught me as much, if not more, than I have taught you. Thank you for that.

And, thank you to the Cranbrook Kingswood Senior May students and the many archival graduate students who have worked on projects over the years, and a special thanks to the most amazing volunteers! We couldn’t have accomplished all that we have without you.

Graduate student (left) and dedicated volunteers at Thornlea Studio Archives

I will close my final Cranbrook blog post by doing what I have tried to do my entire 16 year career here – promote Cranbrook Archives. In the archival profession, one constant issue many of us face is how to demonstrate to our institutions and constituents the importance of an archives – why archives matter. I could wax on, but instead I leave you with this article in the hopes that all who read it will have a new appreciation for the work that archivists do every day to preserve institutional memory. History matters. Archives matter. I am proud that I played a small role in preserving Cranbrook’s rich history.

And on that note, I bid adieu.

Leslie S. Edwards, Head Archivist (2002-2018)

Photo Friday: Underlying Principles of Beauty

St. Paul Chapel reredos. Courtesy Cranbrook Archives.

St. Paul Chapel reredos. Courtesy Cranbrook Archives.

In a letter to George G. Booth ca 1931, Detroit News Art Critic Florence Davies, writes of artist Hildreth Meiere, “All over the place she discovered these refinements of line, these essential underlying principles of beauty. I have taken many people to Cranbrook, never anyone who saw it with so much understanding.”

Meiere (1892-1961) was a distinguished Art Deco muralist, painter, and decorative artist. Her commissions range from the medallions on the exterior of Radio City Music Hall to the dome in the National Academy of Sciences in Washington D.C. to the reredos panels in St. Paul’s Chapel in Christ Church Cranbrook. Educated at Manhattanville, the Art Students League, the California School of Fine Arts, the School of the Art Institute of Chicago, and in Florence, Italy, Meiere was a renowned muralist, as well as an important figure in the history of American Liturgical Art, and a preeminent mosaicist.

“It drives me wild to be spoken of as ‘one of the best women artists,” Meiere wrote to a friend in 1936, “I’ve worked as an equal with men and my rating as an equal is all that I value.” In 1956, she was the first woman honored with The Fine Arts Medal of the American Institute of Architects. Although it has taken years for her work to be discovered and viewed in its rich cultural context, we are grateful for her artistry here at Cranbrook.

Note: You can view more information and images of Hildreth Meiere’s work here.

Gina Tecos, Archivist

The Name Game

From the beginning of Cranbrook’s history in 1904, place names at Cranbrook have evolved and changed. Once the Booths turned the original mill pond into a lake, they named it first Glassenbury Lake (after Glassenbury, England), then it was known as Cranbrook Lake for a very short time, and ultimately Kingswood Lake. The man-made Jonah Lake (or Lake Jonah as it is also known) was originally called Lake Manitou. Brookside School was originally called Bloomfield Hills School and Cranbrook School was Cranbrook School for Boys. Although Brookside School retains its name, since 1985 when the boys and girls schools merged, they are jointly known as Cranbrook Kingswood Schools.

Building names have also changed, often due to an alteration in use or sometimes because they were dedicated to an influential or long-time faculty member.  The Garden House became the Cranbrook Pavilion and is now St. Dunstan’s Playhouse. The Cranbrook School academic building became Hoey Hall after former Headmaster Harry Hoey and what was originally called the “Arcade” is now known as the Peristyle at the Cranbrook Art Museum. Lyon House was first called Stonelea (after its owner Ralph Stone, a long-time friend of George Booth), then Belwood, then the Kyes House before being acquired by Cranbrook.

And even Cranbrook Educational Community is not our first name. In 1927, the Booths established The Cranbrook Foundation as the legal and financial entity that oversaw the then six institutions: Brookside School, Christ Church Cranbrook, Cranbrook Academy of Art, Cranbrook Institute of Science, Cranbrook School, and Kingswood School.

So, what is really in a name? How do we name our campus buildings and landmarks going forward and what legacy will we be imparting with them?

That said, I wish you all a Happy New Year! Or should I say Bonne année? Feliz Año Nuevo? Or maybe Xin nian kuai le?

(And thank you Stefanie Dlugosz-Acton for getting me thinking about names at Cranbrook!)

From the Virginia Kingswood Booth Vogel Papers.

From the Virginia Kingswood Booth Vogel Papers.

Leslie S. Edwards, Head Archivist

Think Snow!

Kingswood School Headmistress residence, 1955.

Kingswood School Headmistress residence, 1955.

Boys from Cranbrook School playing hockey outdoors, 1928.

Boys from Cranbrook School playing hockey outdoors, 1928.

Brookside children ice skating, 1928.

Brookside children ice skating, 1928.

Academy of Art students, Florence Chang and Margueritte Kimball cross-country skiing at Cranbrook, 1944.

Academy of Art students Florence Chang and Margueritte Kimball cross-country skiing at Cranbrook, 1944.

Christ Church Cranbrook, ca 1938.

Christ Church Cranbrook, ca 1938.

Photo Friday: Posters Tell a Story

The Cranbrook Archives exhibition, Designs of the Times: 100 Years of Posters at Cranbrook, opens this weekend. The exhibition documents events and performances that have enhanced and enriched the Cranbrook community for more than a century. The image below is just one of many that will be on display through March 20th, 2016.

yeoman

Performing Arts poster, 1955

This poster, signed “M.W.” was  designed by Michael Justin Wentworth (Cranbrook School ’56). In addition to designing posters, Wentworth was the art editor for both the Brook and the Crane, and designed the sets for the Ergasterion productions and the scenery for the bi-annual Operettas. He received his MA and MFA from University of Michigan, and his PhD from Harvard where he wrote his dissertation on the artist James Tissot, a lifelong interest.

The posters in the exhibition represent all areas of campus – we hope you come check it out!

Gina Tecos, Archivist

A Man of Many Words

At Cranbrook, the legacy of Samuel Simspon Marquis is clearly visible. A trusted advisor to George Booth, Dr. Marquis oversaw the completion of Christ Church Cranbrook and became the first Rector when the parish was officially established in 1927. He was also instrumental in the founding of the Cranbrook School for Boys and was a Trustee of the school from 1926-1939. On 23 May 1940, Marquis Hall was dedicated in his honor.

Prior to his arrival at Cranbrook, Dr. Marquis was invited by Henry Ford to head the Sociological Department at Ford Motor Company. Marquis remained in this position for five years and accompanied Ford on the ill-fated “Peace Ship” to Europe in 1915. In 1923 Marquis published Henry Ford: An Interpretation, one of the first works written by an employee close to Ford. Marquis’ work with Ford is well-documented in our collection here at Cranbrook and at the Benson Ford Research Center.

When the Fairies Go To Church

Unpublished poem by Samuel S. Marquis, Samuel Simpson Marquis Papers, Cranbrook Archives.

While doing research here at Cranbrook, I discovered that Marquis was also a prolific writer. He wrote not only about religious topics, but about history, the political climate of the day, and even poetry. Below are samples of the book plates for the unpublished Marquis Book of Poems. Enjoy!

Marquis Book of Poetry

Cover and interior plates from The Marquis Book of Poems, Samuel Simpson Marquis Papers, Cranbrook Archives.

Gina Tecos, Archivist

Happy Belated Birthday to Our Founder!

September 24th marked the 150th birthday of Cranbrook’s founder, George Gough Booth. Born in Toronto, Mr. Booth had an early interest in art and architecture. In 1881 his family moved to Detroit and he put his artistic talents to work by purchasing half of an interest in an ornamental ironworks firm. The business was successful and used many of Booth’s product designs.

George Gough Booth, ca 1876.  W. E. Lindop, photographer.  Cranbrook Archives

George Gough Booth, ca 1876. W. E. Lindop, photographer. Cranbrook Archives

In 1887 Booth married Ellen Warren Scripps, daughter of Detroit News founder James Scripps. The following year he sold his share in the ironworks business and joined the News staff as its business manager. The News blossomed under Booth’s direction, becoming one of the leading metropolitan dailies in the nation. In 1906, Booth became president of the newspaper, succeeding his father-in-law.

In 1904 George and Ellen Booth purchased a run-down 174 acre farm in Bloomfield Hills and named it Cranbrook after Booth’s ancestral town in England. Booth called upon his long-time friend, and noted Detroit architect, Albert Kahn, to prepare working drawings for the building of Cranbrook House. Kahn responded with an English Arts and Crafts inspired design the Booths moved into their new home in 1908.

In 1922, believing their country estate could serve a larger public purpose, the Booths shifted their focus toward building the six institutions at Cranbrook: Brookside School, Christ Church Cranbrook, Cranbrook School (for boys), Cranbrook Academy of Art, Cranbrook Institute of Science, and Kingswood School (for girls). George Booth was a visionary, and with his wife Ellen, set new standards for generosity, leaving us a legacy we are proud to be a part of. Happy belated birthday George!

“We were unwilling to go through life with our aims centered mainly in the pursuit of wealth and with a devotion wholly to the ordinary opportunities for social satisfaction.  We were not willing to leave all of the more enduring joys for our children or the joy of work in so good a cause entirely to our friends after we had passed on; rather did we wish, in our day, to do what we could and give tangible expression now to our other accomplishments by adventures into a still more enduring phase of life.  We wished to see our dreams come true while we were, to the best of our ability, helping to carry on the work of creation.”  (George Gough Booth, Address at Founders Day, October 28, 1927)

Gina Tecos, Archivist

Photo Friday: Arthur Nevill Kirk on Facebook

Famed metalsmith Arthur Nevill Kirk and apprentice Margaret Elleanor Biggar work in the metalsmithing studio at the Cranbrook Academy of Art, 1930. Cranbrook Archives.

Famed silversmith Arthur Nevill Kirk and apprentice Margaret Elleanor Biggar work in the metalsmithing studio at the Cranbrook Arts and Crafts Studios, 1930. Cranbrook Archives.

In this scrapbook page from 1930, “Miss Margaret Biggar” and “Mr. Arthur Nevill Kirk” are found working in the metalsmithing studios at the arts and crafts studios, the predecessor to the Cranbrook Academy of Art. An English-born silversmith, Arthur Nevill Kirk came to Cranbrook in 1927 at the urging of George Booth, who contracted him to produce silver designs for Christ Church Cranbrook. Kirk eventually taught silversmithing at the Cranbrook Arts and Crafts Studios before going on to found the Metals department at Wayne State, where he worked until 1957.

We at the Kitchen Sink are excited to use this post as an opportunity to promote not just the amazing history of Arthur Nevill Kirk but also highlight a new edition to the Cranbrook social media landscape – Cranbrook Archives’ Facebook page! As the beating heart of the Center for Collections and Research and the repository for all things historical at Cranbrook, the Archives uses Facebook to promote its extensive holdings, provide a portal through which researchers can access information about the collection, and give casual readers a daily glimpse into the fascinating history of the community through posts like yesterday’s, which featured this very photo. Check out their Facebookpage and learn more about this incredible resource!

 

Blog at WordPress.com.

%d bloggers like this: