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Le vrai portrait de Notre-Dame. O próbach odnowienia ikonografii maryjnej w XIX wieku / Le vrai portrait de Notre-Dame. On the attempts to refresh the Marian iconography in the 19th century

Krasny, Piotr

In: Sacrum et Decorum, 2 (2009), pp. 16-30

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Translation of abstract (English)

In the 19th century, France witnessed a significant revival of Marian piety, which manifested itself, among other things, in mass participation in May Masses and a surge in the number of Living Rosary Circles. Numerous apparitions of the Virgin Mary were reported in the country, some of which the Church recognized as "worthy of credence". It was under their influence that l’abbé Blanc came up with a proposal to reconstruct the true image of Mary based on the accounts of her appearance given by those who experienced revelations. The results, however, proved disappointing. The appearance of the Virgin Mary, as seen by Catherine Labouré in the chapel at Rue du Bac, was "corrected" to such an extent that the "miraculous medallion" reveals to have had the Rococo statue of the Immaculate from the Parisian church of Saint-Sulpice as the actual prototype. No better were the results of recording the image reported by the children of La Salette. Barrême d’Angers, a provincial sculptor, crowded every detail they described into a single figure of Mary; Joris Karl-Huysmans argued it made the Mother of God resemble an Iroquois in a headdress. A much more talented artist, Joseph-Higes Fabisch set out to sculpt the statue of Our Lady of Lourdes, using the account given by Bernadette Soubirous as the basis for a "memory portrait" of the Holy Virgin; the girl’s testimony was supplemented with reproductions of earlier art works. Even though initially the co-operation between Soubrious and the artist seemed to go well, the girl burst into tears upon seeing the finished statue. She commented that the image lacked the "remarkable simplicity" of the Beautiful Lady. One reason for all these failures, argued Labouré, was "the hubris of earthly artists", who groundlessly believed themselves capable of rendering supernatural visions in their material images. Some blame should probably also go to the clergy, who were too afraid of offending renowned sculptors to heed the objections voiced by the witnesses. Once the attempt at reviving the iconography of the Virgin Mary on the basis of revelations ended in failure, the church lost all faith in the skills of contemporary artists and began to disseminate the exact reproductions of medieval Marian images as the sole object of worship.

Document type: Article
Version: Secondary publication
Date Deposited: 18 Nov 2014 12:34
Faculties / Institutes: Research Project, Working Group > Individuals
DDC-classification: Arts
Controlled Subjects: Christliche Kunst, Mariendarstellung, Marienverehrung, Ikonographie, Geschichte 1800-1900
Subject (classification): Artists, Architects
Countries/Regions: France
Collection: ART-Dok Central and Eastern Europe