Artist: Ernest Hebert
Medium: Oil on canvas
Size: 66.2 x 34.1 cm
Date: c. 1877
Location: Musée National Ernest Hébert, Paris.
TWENTY SAINTS IN TWENTY DAYS: PART 18 – ST MARGARET THE VIRGIN
St Margaret the Virgin, also known as Margaret of Antioch, was the daughter of a pagan priest named Aedesius. Her mother dying soon after her birth, Margaret was nursed by a nearby Christian. Having embraced Christianity and consecrated her virginity to God, she was disowned by her father and adopted by her nurse. Later, Olybrius, Governor of the Roman Diocese of the East, offered her marriage at the price of her renunciation of Christianity. Upon her refusal, she was cruelly tortured, during which various miraculous incidents occurred. One of these involved being swallowed by Satan in the shape of a dragon, from which she escaped alive when the cross she carried irritated the dragon's innards. Finally the Governor ordered her beheaded.
Hebert became renowned for his painting, 'La Malaria', in the 1850 Salon, and perhaps thought of as a principally a classic painter. He deserves, however, to figure among the Symbolists as well. His religious and mythological pieces, such as Ophelias, were wistful and avoided female figures in a lyrical and passionate atmosphere. Accordingly, his St Margaret shows us a triumphant Virgin. Looking Heavenward she holds the dragon pinned and helpless with her radiant cross. Though she may have the visage of one of Raphael’s Madonnas, the vibrant colors and attention to fine detail make this painting distinctly Hebert’s.
Ernest Hebert (November 1817 - December 1908), sometimes known as Antoine Auguste Ernest Hebert, was a French painter and academic. Hebert was yet another of the artists working in the orbit of Paul Delaroche whose name fell into relative obscurity in the last century. He was, in fact, like Delaroche, one of the most highly regarded and decorated painters of his generation, winning medals at several "Expositions Universelles" (World's Fairs). He received the Grande Croix of the Legion of Honor in 1903.