Sunday, August 2, 2009

St Margaret Mary Alacoque Contemplating the Sacred Heart of Jesus

Title: St Margaret Mary Alacoque Contemplating the Sacred Heart of Jesus

Artist: Corrado Giaquinto

Medium: Oil on canvas

Size: 171 x 123 cm

Date: c. 1765

Location: Private collection

Margaret Mary Alacoque (22 July 1647 – 17 October 1690) is rarely represented in art. She was a French Roman Catholic nun and mystic, who promoted devotion to the Sacred Heart of Jesus in its modern form, and the bleeding heart is chosen by Giaquinto as her symbol in this painting. This canvas exemplifies Giaquinto's painting technique perfectly. His dazzling brushwork is especially evident in the glowing vision of the Sacred Heart, which is skillfully rendered in the transparent layers of delicately colored glazes that are the hallmark of Giaquinto's mature style.

Margaret Mary was born at Lhautecour, France, and from early childhood was described as showing intense love for the Eucharist, preferring silence and prayer to childhood play. After her First Communion at the age of nine she secretly practiced severe corporal mortification (including carving the name "Jesus" into her chest as an adolescent) until paralysis confined her to bed for years. At the end of this period, having made a vow to the Blessed Virgin to consecrate herself to religious life, she was instantly restored to perfect health. In the convent she received several revelations of the Sacred Heart. The visions revealed to her the form of the devotion, and the celebration of the Feast of the Sacred Heart. After Margaret Mary's death, on 17 October 1690, the devotion to the Sacred Heart was fostered by the Jesuits and the subject of controversies within the Church. The practice was not officially recognized till 75 years after her death.

Corrado Giaquinto (b. 1703, Molfetta, d. 1766, Napoli) was an Italian Rococo painter. In 1755 Giaquinto moved from Rome to Madrid where he achieved great academic honors (appointed director of the Academia de San Fernando) as well as professional ones (as supervisor of the royal tapestry manufactory in Madrid). Giaquinto had great influence on Spanish painters, particularly the young Goya. In 1762 he returned Naples where his work influenced Neapolitan artists.

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