The most famous icon of the Society of the Sacred Heart, Mater Admirabilis was painted by Pauline Perdrau in Rome in 1844. Pauline had come to Rome as a novice and an art student, and when she asked permission to paint a fresco of Mary in a niche at the Trinità dei Monti, the Mother Superior reluctantly granted her permission. The colors of the resultant fresco, according to the story, were far too garish for the tastes of her superior, and so the fresco was covered over with a curtain.
Two years later, Pope Pius IX visited the Trinità and asked to see what was under the curtain. When the fresco was uncovered, the “garish” red had softened to a pink, and he enthusiastically dubbed the painting Mater Admirabilis (Mother Most Admirable). One can find a copy of Mater in virtually any Sacred Heart school world-wide, and “The Feast of Mater” is celebrated on October 20.
It is interesting to note that Pauline (who became very close to Sophie and authored a lovely memoir of her, Les Loisirs de l’Abbaye) painted other versions of Mater during her lifetime. One depicts her in old age.
Mater has recently been re-envisioned by contemporary artists who have chosen to connect her to their local landscapes. Pictured below are two such images, the Carrolton Mater (at Carrolton School of the Sacred Heart in Miami, Florida, showing the Bay of Biscayne in the background); and the Atherton Mater stained glass window (at Sacred Heart Schools in Atherton, California), featuring a strip of the Pacific, a redwood, and the school bell tower.