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Joseph Pépin

The Virgin Mary
From the altarpiece of Montreal's former Notre-Dame Church


Joseph Pépin
Sault-au-Récollet, Quebec, 1770 – Saint-Vincent-de-Paul, Quebec, 1842


The Virgin Mary
From the altarpiece of Montreal's former Notre-Dame Church




Polychromed wood


196 x 72 x 40 cm


Gift of the Honourable Serge Joyal, P.C., O.C., O.Q., inv. 1992.20


Quebec and Canadian Art

Restoration by the Centre de conservation du Québec, 2003-2010

When the interior of the Montreal Sulpicians’ old Notre-Dame Church was redecorated early in the 19th century, the sculpture was assigned to the Atelier des Écores. In 1809, the studio was commissioned to produce an imposing wooden Virgin that was to “conform to the small silver statue” of The Immaculate Conception (1712-1717) belonging to the parish. Despite a resemblance in the position of the arms folded across the chest, the Atelier des Écores Virgin differs in its uncovered head and direct gaze. The word “silver” was crossed out on the work order, which suggests that the actual model was another work, as yet unidentified. Originally painted white to imitate marble, this Virgin Mary was installed in a niche above the altar, where, in Lower Canada, it was customary to put a painting. However, a marble Virgin and Child (1754) by Jean-Baptiste Pigalle has occupied a niche in the Church of Saint Sulpice in Paris since 1778. Thus, the heritage of the Ancien Régime continued to be expressed at Montreal’s church of Notre-Dame. The later polychrome reflects the evolution of the church’s decoration.

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