Murals by Diego Rivera at the Detroit Institute of Arts: the Predella Panels--page 6 (of 6 pages)

The so-called predella panels

These panels below the main fresco have been called predella panels, a somewhat misleading term since the terms usually refers to the panels below an altarpiece. I suppose if one views these frescoes as celebrating Detroit industry, then with a stretch one could called them "secular" predella panels. They also resemble grisaille paintings (made to resemble bas-relief sculpture), a close parallel being those of the seven virtues and seven deadly sins in Giotto's Scrovegni Chapel in Padua. These panels form a continuous narrative of the day in a life of the worker beginning with the far left, north mural. Additionally, some of the panels depict aspects of the manufacturing process not illustrated in the larger scenes. Oddly, the panels also appear to be fixed to gates with the center open into the painted factory space.

Workers punch in time clocks;
open hearth furnace with a pour into molds


Rolling mill with ingots on carts being transferred for reheating before rolling;
ingots being rolled into bars


Bar mill with metal bars piled and cut;
workers on lunch break


Making fertilizer from by-products of coke oven;
producing parts to repair machines


Engine class at trade school supposedly led by Henry Ford (although he never taught there);
the glass plant with rolling process


Glass plant with polishing and stacking processes;
workers receiving pay at an armored truck

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Go to Rivera Murals Index.

Works Consulted or Quoted:
Goldman, Shifra M. Dimensions of the Americas: Art and Social Change in Latin American and the United States. Chicago: U of Chicago P, 1994.
Luis-Martín Lozano and Juan Rafael Coronel Rivera. Diego Rivera: The Complete Murals. Taschen, 2009.
Antonio Rodríguez. Diego Rivera: Mural Painting. Mexico City: Fondo Editorial de la Plástica Mexicana, 1988.
Linda Bank Downs. Diego Rivera. The Detroit Industry Murals. New York: Norton, 1999.

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© 2010 Mary Ann Sullivan. I have photographed (on site), scanned, and manipulated all the images on these pages. Please feel free to use them for personal or educational purposes. They are not available for commercial purposes.