Posts Tagged ‘American Indians’

I have discovered this intriguing religious statue located in the chapel of the virgin of the church Saint-Paul-Saint-Louis in the Marais.

Religion instructing an American Indian

Religion instructing an American Indian

This church was commissioned by Louis XIIII and built by the Jesuits during the 17th Century. The Jesuits followed the spirit of the Council of Trent that advocated lights, ornaments, and incensing to foster spirituality: the contemplation of masterpieces was supposed to guide man towards god. It still contains lavish ornaments, however a fair amount of these were destroyed or looted during the French Revolution.

This statue is an allegory representing Religion converting an American Indian (La Religion instruisant un Indien d’Amérique) executed around 1745 by Nicolas-Sébastien Adam (1705-1778). It is a plaster version, a marble version was supposed to be executed later, but for some reason, never was.

Religion instructing an American Indian by Nicolas-Sébastien Adam (1745)

Religion is personified by Mary and a young boy stands for the American Indian. Mary holds a cross in a left hand, opens her right hand, while her whole body seems to be inviting the young native towards conversion, showing him the way of God. The boy leans on Mary’s laps, his head is oriented upwards, his gaze fixes the cross and his hands are joined together in a posture of prayer, almost of submission.

Religion instructing an American Indian (detail)

This artwork illustrates the well spread belief of the “noble savage” very popular in Europe throughout (even after) the 18th Century. According to this myth, native Indians were believed to be more virtuous and free than civilized man corrupted by the institutions of his society.

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