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Painting of an angel with white wings, wearing a flowing beige dress and a blue head scarf, standing between the V-shaped edges of the Flavelle House's arched ceiling

Heavens Above

The ceiling in Flavelle House is a great example of art nouveau

U of T’s Faculty of Law visitors often find themselves cooling their heels in the “fireplace foyer” of Flavelle House, the heritage building that forms the law school’s entrance. The ones who look up might find themselves wanting to stay a little longer.

Four angels – painted in the delicately tinted colours representative of art nouveau – stare serenely down from the ceiling. The painting style, which evokes stained glass and is among the best of its kind in Toronto, is a throwback to the late 19th century Arts and Crafts movement.

The ceiling – completed shortly after Flavelle House opened in 1902 – is the work of Gustav Hahn, a German emigrant who painted murals in many prominent Toronto buildings. Renovators discovered Hahn ceiling panels lining the Ontario Legislature chamber at Queen’s Park in 1994; they had been covered in horsehair and canvas since 1912. Those recently restored murals and the Flavelle House ceiling are now included in the Toronto Inventory of Heritage Properties.

Hahn was head designer at Elliott and Sons in Toronto, which specialized in church interiors, for two decades. In 1995, his artwork at St. Paul’s Avenue Road United Church was destroyed by fire. This leaves only his Flavelle House ceiling mural intact, and ensures harried law students can cast their bleary eyes up to the heavens for a tranquil moment.

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