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Mural paintings and theatrical pageants were dynamic components of American popular culture at the turn of the 20th century. Compare Thesmophoria and The Crucifixion: A Triptych, looking for characters and settings that could be part of a play or procession. The elegant Mrs. Goetz, painted by famed portraitist John Singer Sargent, captures the wealthy lifestyle of patrons who may have commissioned artworks such as these.

John Singer Sargent (1856–1929) Mrs. Edward Goetz

Purchased with funds provided by Jack R. and Mary Lois Wheatley


Francis Davis Millet (1846–1912) Thesmophoria

Purchased with funds provided by Ira and Mary Lou Fulton


Bernard Sleigh (1872–1954) The Cruxifiction: A Triptych

Purchased with funds provided by Verla Birrell and Campbell Foundation


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Thesmophoria is a sketch for a larger mural in the Bank of Pittsburgh. The women are dressed in beautiful white roman togas and proceed forward in groups as part of a pageant. Prominent civic institutions and banks often referenced the classical style to suggest that the longevity, stability, and legacy of the Greek and Roman cultures are similar to the banks and courts of the United States.

The Crucifixion: A Triptych shows three groups of followers from different eras, classes, and walks of life. In this life-size tableau, the artist presents an ageless metaphorical gathering to illustrate the scripture that “every knee shall bow” to acknowledge the Savior. The vines flanking the crucified Christ and the verticality of the individual panels mimic the elongated forms seen in the background of Mrs. Edward Goetz.

The figures in both Thesmophoria and The Crucifixion: A Triptych seem pushed into the foreground by the horizontal wall that runs behind them. This shallow, compact space flattens the images and makes them appear as if on the stage of a theatrical production.

Mrs. Goetz sits against a backdrop influenced by aesthetic era designs of natural forms in nature, such as the long, sinuous vines climbing the wall behind her.