Artist: Ernest Hebert
Medium: Oil on panel
Size: 40.3 x 28.3 cm
Date: c. 1872
Location: The Walters Art Museum, Baltimore.
19 IMAGES FROM THE 19th CENTURY: PART 12
In art, the term “The Madonna” is applied specifically to an artwork in which Mary, with or without the infant Jesus, is the focus and central figure of the picture. Mary and the infant may be surrounded by adoring angels or worshiping saints, however paintings which have a narrative content are usually given a title that reflects the scene. Half-length paintings of the Madonna and Child are also common in Italian Renaissance painting, particularly in Venice.
This painting is a variant based on a large-scale altarpiece that Hébert painted in time for the Salon of 1872 and that was finally installed in the church of his native town, La Tronche, the following year. Unlike the original altarpiece, which has a patterned background, this version is stylized to recall the conventions of Byzantine icons. The gold ground, raised haloes and Greek letters-mu, rho, theta, and upsilon: the abbreviation of "Maria Theotokos" (Mary God-bearer), often found in Byzantine mosaics-lend the painting a schematic flatness that contrasts dramatically with the otherwise convincingly three-dimensional figures.
Ernest Hebert (November 1817 - December 1908), sometimes known as Antoine Auguste Ernest Hebert, was a French painter and academic. Though he took drawing lessons from the age of ten from the French painter Benjamin Rolland, his father wished him to become a lawyer, and in 1834 he moved to Paris to study law. While there he also studied drawing and painting, and in 1839, the year he passed his law exams, he also won the Prix de Rome for his painting 'The Cup of Joseph Found in the Sack of Benjamin.' During his lifetime Hebert became one of the most highly regarded and decorated painters of his generation, winning medals at several "Expositions Universelles" (World's Fairs), and the Grande Croix of the Legion of Honor in 1903.