Anna Elizabeth Talbot Cole (1871-1906)
White marble portrait relief on a gray-blue slate tablet
When the Cole Memorial Chapel was dedicated on October 16, 1926 after the death of Dr. Samuel Valentine Cole in 1925, a memorial plaque was placed inside the narthex or entryway, honoring this great man. After its dedication, William Isaac Cole, the elder brother of S.V.Cole commissioned a lovely memorial Inside the chapel to Samuel’s beloved first wife Annie Talbot Cole.
The portrait relief, although carved from smooth white marble, is surprisingly warm and alive. Her head is turned toward the sanctuary and the congregation so she is not in profile like a silhouette, but carved in high relief with the face turned ¾ left and outward. The viewer can see most of her nose and the opposite cheek and eye, reminiscent of St. Gaudens’ Frances F. Cleveland or his relief of the Schiff children. The sun, streaming in from the adjacent window, lights the portrait as if glowing from within, creating shadows of her realistic features. The eyes are soft in their expression with delicate eyebrows carved above them. Her mouth is pretty and set with a hint of a smile that makes her appear very approachable and charming. Note the details on her high-collared garment with its lace edge, the small neat covered buttons on the otherwise undecorated bodice and the locket or cameo she wears at her throat.
Her hair is waved and curled with realistic wisps and tendrils of hair, presenting texture or “jingle” when compared to the quiet softness of her skin and facial features and the smooth ground behind her head. This face is so full of wisdom and life, it prompts you to feel as if you could have known her and spoken to her right then and there in the chapel she loved.
Her portrait is mounted on a slate tablet, the edges of which are shaped in a French cove molding. Carved into the tablet is the inscription with her name and dates and the word “fidelissima” which means “most faithful” in Latin. (feminine singular, superlative) The five-petaled rose (on either side of the Latin) in iconography speaks to womanhood and, like the compass rose is tied to the concept of true direction. The flaming torch beside an open book symbolizes the flame of truth through knowledge or commitment to scholarship, but at a women’s seminary could also mean enlightenment through scripture.
It is interesting to note the difference between the carved marble relief of Mrs. Cole and the bronze bust of her brother-in-law done a few years later.
Signed “F.W.ALLEN ‘26” under the proper left side bottom edge of the medallion (image above)
Location: Cole Memorial Chapel, Wheaton College, Norton, MA, on the right end wall of the nave under the balcony.The twenty-inch-round relief is sealed to a tablet of the same variety as her husband’s memorial tablet.
Instead of a frame, the tablet displays a French cove molded edge.
The carved gold lettering on each is coordinated in style although on this work the serif lettering is somewhat thinner and in all capital letters with high horizontals and uniform heights of the numbers and letters.
Symbols: Two lighted torches at the foot of two open books.
5-Petaled rosettes on both sides of the middle line of type