'Strength' A Cast Glass and Wrought-Iron Panel, circa 1939
61¾ in. (156.8 cm.) high, 32¾ in. (83.2 cm.) wide, 1½ in. (3.8 cm.) deep
molded signature O. Maldarelli

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Lot Essay

When the Lehigh Portland Cement Company extensively renovated the Young Building, their Allentown, PA, headquarters in the Art Deco style in 1939-1940, they called upon Oronzio Maldarelli to design a glass mural to be installed directly above the front door. Maldarelli's lustrous glass relief was made in three panels; each an allegorical representation of one of the enduring characteristics of cement: durability, permanence and strength. The tripartite panel, cast in Pittsburgh at the Corning Company's glass works, the forerunner for glass innovation, was, at the time, the world's largest glass mural. The here offered panel is likely 'Strength' and was cast at Corning as a test sample before the entire triptych. The location of the actual Young Building panels is unknown.

A goldsmith's son, Maldarelli was born in Naples in 1892 and immigrated to the United States in 1900, settling in New York where he studied at the National Academy of Design and at Cooper Union. He also spent seven years at the Beaux-Arts Institute of Design. After a well-received show at the Smithsonian in 1929 and a Guggenheim fellowship in the early 1930s, Maldarelli won commissions for architectural sculpture for cemeteries, churches and museums, and he attracted the attention of such collectors as the Rockefellers, leading to several design commissions for friezes at Radio City Music Hall, New York. He was responsible for a major installation on a U.S. Government building at the 1939 New York World's Fair, designed 'Air Mail,' one of the 12 postmen for the new post office in Washington, D.C., and, among many other commissions, the Madonna in the Lady's Chapel of St. Patrick's Cathedral and the Marble Bird Bath in Central Park Zoo, both in New York. Maldarelli taught sculpture at Sarah Lawrence College and Columbia University.

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