Sometimes, an artist produces commissioned works, working with a patron's vision.
Sometimes, an artist produces independently, working out his own vision.
And sometimes, it seems, something happens that's a beautiful "in between."
This new work is one of those pieces.
Our Lady of Victory, 25"x9"
Ink and Watercolor on paper
Let me explain: a version of Our Lady of Victory wrought in a style inspired by the work of Alphonse Mucha. On the one hand, this was a bit of a segue from my main studio work which, as you know, is oil painting in the Boston School tradition. On the other hand, it's a strain of my work that has been growing recently, from my recent Children's books A Child's Christmas ABC Book and A Child's Christmas Counting Book, which were also inspired by Mucha, and just a general pull in the direction of the Beaux Arts master. If you've been watching my Instagram updates and following along with my newsletter, you've noticed this study of mine.
A Parisian encounter
Eleven years ago this month, I rented a tiny apartment in Paris for my honeymoon with Deirdre. It was barely large enough to fit me standing up straight; we affectionately called the spot our 'Hobbit Hole in the Sky.' When we arrived there in the 2nd arrondissement, we found that we were perched just over the little church of Notre-Dame-des-Victoires (Our Lady of Victory). Over the next few weeks of strolling the city streets, visiting museums, painting and drawing together and munching baguettes, arriving back at Notre-Dame-des-Victoires became familiar, and the church was our home base in a foreign place.
Like all the churches in Paris, Notre-Dame-des-Victoires is architecturally stunning, imbued with a historic sense of holiness, and packed with painted masterpieces. Perhaps most strikingly, there is, in a side chapel, a large statue of Our Lady of Victory which is surrounded by artistically arranged piles of crutches that were left there by crippled pilgrims -- pilgrims who prayed for Our Lady's intercession and walked away healed, leaving their walking aids behind. It was before this same statue that St. Thérèse, whose sainted parents were devoted to Our Lady of Victory, once famously prayed for discernment about her vocation. We attended daily Mass there several times and became on friendly terms with the priest who was pastor there.
At the end of our visit, this kind priest presented us with a small replica of the famous statue of the Victorious Virgin as a gift to take home with us. We were deeply touched by the gesture. We felt a special connection to this little corner of the City of Lights and a new patroness for our future family: Our Lady of Victory. The statue has always held a place of honor in our home.
A new take on the Madonna
Two years ago, I was commissioned by a patron in the Midwest to produce an oil painting of Our Lady of the Rosary (the same iconic image as Our Lady of Victory, under a slightly different title and understanding). It was an occasion to bring my little statue into the studio for study and inspiration.
That painting was settled in Indiana some time ago, but the image of Our Lady of Victory/Our Lady of the Rosary has been on my mind and heart... An ink and watercolor, "Art Deco" version needed to be born onto paper. This seemed perhaps to be a bit of a 'pet project,' a pure labor of love... something for me to go ahead and try.
But it seems that the goodness of this idea is not just inside my head. As I was sharing the work in progress through Instagram, another patron reached out to inquire about it and ended up purchasing the painting when it was about halfway done. As you can imagine, this was truly a thrill for me! To have my 'concept' adopted at that stage was very affirming and exciting.
Since then, not only have I received many more inquiries and positive feedback from many of you about this painting, but I have also had inquiries about further commissions along these lines. So, clearly, my experimental marriage of sacred art with Mucha-style technique has much territory yet to be explored -- and I can't wait to go there. If this is something that you're interested in being a part of, please be in touch to discuss a commission; I would love to have a conversation with you!
About the piece itself
You will notice the symbolism of celestial bodies in the image. Mary is Queen of Heaven and has often been likened to the Moon -- she is not the source of life herself but the perfect mirror of grace, just as the moon reflects the Sun. Here she is imagined as a Lady strong but serene, powerful through her Son but humble in herself. Her mouth is resolute but quiet; the infant Jesus is more poised to speak to us and He offers us the Rosary, that powerful prayer. All the colors of dusk and dawn are around the two figures, but they stand forth in pure light, triumphant. In the corners are stylized lilies which represent Mary's purity. And the various stone touches hearken back to the architecture of Paris. I wanted the crowns especially to stand out with extreme dimensionality and splendor.
(Bonus detail: You may notice a similarity between the face of Jesus and the face of the angel who has just carved Our Lady's title into everlasting stone... both are modeled after my little daughter Symphorosa.)
I have heard from many of you that Our Lady of Victory is a title that seems very relevant at this historical and cultural moment. Perhaps you are sensing, like me, the spiritual battle taking place around us; perhaps you're occasionally feeling beleaguered and looking to Our Lady as the fair champion we need. We know the gates of Hell will not prevail against Christ's Church. Even when we feel besieged, Mary is a heroine of this story and shares her power through the Holy Rosary.
While my original Our Lady of Victory is awaiting framing in its new home in Texas, I am making prints available for all of you because of the way this image seems to have resonated with so many.
I have worked closely with an excellent giclée print maker here in Massachusetts and am very excited to have him reproducing my work on beautiful, archival, creamy paper with slight texture that is reminiscent of the original watercolor paper. I vetted a few test options and am confident that the quality and color of these prints will be a beautiful and excellent representation of the original work!
I'm trying out a print order form for your ease and my organization.
Please click through to place your order!
Hello there, I'm John H. Folley, an oil painter in the Boston School tradition. Thanks for visiting the Beauty Advocacy Blog, where it's my job to help you become a more discerning art appreciator.
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