Commemorating 150 years of the death of St. Madeleine Sophie with a "new" portrait

  • Portrait of St. Madeleine Sophie Barat, ca. 1879

This portrait of St. Madeleine Sophie Barat is located in the General Archives of the Society in Rome. Its origin is unknown, though there are indications that it may have been sent to the Mother House in Paris from Italy in 1879 (cf. Journal of the Mother House, July 1879.) The first copy of this painting we have located is a commemorative card issued for the Golden Jubilee of the house of Charleville, France in 1885. We have found no indication of the subsequent moves of the painting when the Mother House in Paris closed in 1907.

The portrait re-appears in 1992 in the convent of Santa Rufina, in Rome, when the Sisters of the Immaculate Conception of Ivrea (Italy) discovered it during work of restoration of the ancient monastery they had occupied since the departure of the RSCJ. Realizing that the RSCJ might have “forgotten” it when they had left Santa Rufina in 1917, the Treasurer called the Mother House and offered to return it to the Society. The size of the painting, 110 cm x 89 cm (frame included), rendered placement at the Mother House impossible. Once restored, the painting was hung in the General Archives, where it remains until today.

Important notes concerning the portrait:

  • There is no halo or other indication of “sanctity”
  • The eyes are open and looking at the observer; they seem to follow one as one moves in the room

Both of these elements seem to indicate that the painting dates from before the official introduction in Rome of the Cause of Beatification of St. Madeleine Sophie in July 1879.

Margaret Phelan rscj
General Archivist