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Atelier des Écores

Death of Saint Francis Xavier
From the church of Sainte-Rose, Île Jésus (now Laval)


Atelier des Écores
Saint-Vincent-de-Paul, Quebec, 1792-1830


Death of Saint Francis Xavier
From the church of Sainte-Rose, Île Jésus (now Laval)


About 1811 or 1812


Polychromed wood


93.5 x 74.8 cm


Gift of Samuel Breitman, inv. 1964.Df.17


Quebec and Canadian Art

Composed of elements sculpted separately, then nailed or glued onto an assemblage of pieces of wood and finally painted, this relief illustrates new methods of sculptural production. The scene is directly inspired by a small engraved holy card, which is in turn a schematic version of a more elaborate print by a French artist, François de Poilly. It represents the death of the Jesuit missionary Francis Xavier (1506-1552), laid low by fever and alone on the island of Sancian, off the coast of China, where he had gone to preach the Gospel. Devotion to Saint Francis Xavier (canonized in 1622) recalls the Jesuits’ importance in the colony. Several paintings of this subject are known, but this is the only sculptural version that has come down to us. It is contemporary with a renewal of popular fervour in conjunction with the spread of a novena prayed to the saint.

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