Marais Madonna

In the chapter entitled “Bridegroom” in Part 2, Sophie and three companions make their first vows in the Marais house where she has been living with her brother, Louis.  Father Joseph Varin presides at the ceremony, which actually occurred on November 21, 1800—the Feast of the Presentation of Mary.  On the wall of the room where they take their vows hangs a portrait of Mary and the infant Jesus; Mary wears a crimson robe, and the painting has a powerful effect on Sophie as she promises to dedicate her life to God.

This painting (now hanging in the Mother House in Rome) belonged to Louis Barat and was given by him to Sophie. It is an 18th-century copy of a painting done by Andrea Solario, a Milanese who belonged to the circle of Leonardo da Vinci, and who spent a period of time painting in Normandy.  His work can be found in many museums, but his works from the Normandy period (1507-1509) have been lost.

Our Lady of the Society is one of several artistic copies of Solario’s Madonna with the Child Jesus. According to RSCJ archivist Margaret Phelan, “another copy of this picture can be found in the Hungarian Gallery of Fine Arts (Budapest). The history of this picture is the following: Lord John Pálffy (Vienna) bought it in the middle of the 19th century from Parisian collector. The Lord left in his testament (in 1907) all his collection to the Hungarian National Museum. A third copy of this picture can be seen in the National Gallery of London.”




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