Friday, November 5, 2010

Trompe l'oeil and other significant features

Trompe l'oeil is French for "to fool the eye" and the walls and ceilings of the Readfield Union Meeting House, which are painted plaster, appear to be three-dimensional columns, medallions, wall plaques, arches and a receding colonnade that protrude from the walls and ceiling. They are, in truth all flat yet are so realistically painted they truly do "fool the eye".

About 40 years after the "Brick Church" was completed the congregation decided to hire an architect to redesign the interior so it would look more appropriate for the mid-Victorian period. An artist, Charles J. Schumacher of Portland was hired to do the interior decoration. In his lifetime he completed 51 buildings in Maine but today the Readfield Union Meeting House is the only one that survives intact. Imagine if Rembrandt has created 51 painting and a mere single example had come down to us today?

After Schumacher finished his work, stylist carpet, handsome black walnut and butternut pews seating over 300, a large cast iron chandelier and matching wall scones were installed. Bright non-leaded colored stenciled glass" windows were added. These are most unusual, found only in one other church in Maine. A new pulpit and matching chairs for the minister and two deacon's chairs in the Gothic Revival style were purchased. The choir was remodeled into a loft space, with a curved, artificially grained frontal painted to approximate butternut and walnut, therby linking the choir to the sanctuary and pews. One can picture the choir members enfolded in this artfully designed space lending their voices to the prayers of the worshipers. The original pump organ that was in the choir loft still exists and has been restored.