By Darla McCammon
There exist several summaries on the construction and changes over the years that affected the size, shape and overall appearance of Notre Dame Cathedral.
Other things than construction had an impact on the number of visitors, however. In 1831 a book was published that increased the fascination of the world in this 850-year-old structure. The book was “The Hunchback of Notre Dame.” This incredible novel by Victor Hugo was enthusiastically received by the reading public around the world. Later, Walt Disney created a movie of the same name and brought to life the famous bell towers as tended to by the Hunchback. The hundreds of gargoyles adorning every conceivable niche and shelf added to the fascination and popularity of the story.
There are other genuine stories within the hallowed walls. The west wall of the Saint-Guillaume chapel within Notre Dame normally housed a world-famous painting created in 1716 by John Jouvenet called “the visitation.” Jouvenet’s family was known for their artistic capabilities. His grandfather was Noel Jouvenet, who was also a teacher of such notable artists as Nicolas Poussin. Jouvenet was employed by the Salon De Mars, then within a year of that prestigious credit became a member of the Académie Royale. His extraordinary painting “the visitation” is more remarkable when you discover that Jouvenet suffered from partial paralysis for the last four years of his life while creating this painting. He created this adored masterpiece working entirely with his left hand.
He died in 1717, one year after the completion of the painting. The Jouvenet painting was inspired by the canon of La Porte, who operated with the wishes and finances of Louis XIII. It was decided to provide eight paintings to Notre Dame, each with a theme relating to the life of Mary. It was planned that at the rEvolution they would, along with all works of art, be removed from Notre Dame and taken to the Museum at Versailles. Only five canvases survived, including the Jouvenet, and were returned to their places in new frames in 1807.
Arguments later ensued about the disposition of these works and it was decided to take all except the Jouvenet to the Louvre in 1860. Jouvenet’s painting was then supposed to be returned to the cathedral in 1947. It has hung on the west wall of the Saint-Guillaume chapel since that time. This painting was on display at the time of the fire and its current condition is still unknown.
In this painting, the composition moves our eyes immediately to the center steps, where our artist has executed the depiction of our characters protectively hovered over by three angels. Both Mary and Elizabeth, bowed before Mary, are shown predicting future miracles by their unborn children. Others in the portrait are Elizabeth’s husband, two young women and interestingly the face of Jouvenet himself along with the canon of La Porte, who inspired this work. Some believe Jouvenet saw his painting in Notre Dame along with another of the Great May paintings called, ironically, the “Cure of the paralytic.”
We will continue the story of Notre Dame next week by answering this: What is a flying buttress?
Upcoming and Current Events
If you would like to exhibit at Warsaw City Hall Art Gallery or submit an event, contact Darla at (574) 527-4044 or at [email protected].
- The Dean Jansen photography exhibit will be on display at Warsaw City Hall through May 31.
- The Gallery at Rua will display the RedBird Studio art exhibit through May 19. Cardinal Services proudly displays some incredible artwork under mentor Timothy Young.
- The Honeywell Center Clark Gallery in Wabash will have Joel Fremion fabric collages on display through June 3.
- The spring art competition is now on view at Lakeland Art Gallery, located at 302 E. Winona Ave., Warsaw.