The commentary of the cover

The Elevation of the Little King of Love by Pierre-Marie Dumont

Upon the death of François Boucher in 1770, Jean-Baptiste-Marie Pierre († 1789) acceded to the prestigious position of “First Painter to the King,” namely Louis XV. At the same time he took over the direction of the royal Gobelins factory, which produced tapestries and furniture. His well-earned reputation was equal to that of his close contemporary Tiepolo († 1770), the master of the Rococo style. Unfortunately, Pierre is one of those great masters whose renown is lost to posterity largely because most of their works have not survived. Today, only the lovely Assumption of the Virgin that graces the cupola of the Lady Chapel in Paris’ Saint Roch Church remains as testimony to the painted ceilings that made his name.

During their flight from the wrath of Herod, the Holy Family arrived at the border between the Holy Land and Egypt, between the land of the Jews and that of the pagans. An old signpost, crumbling as though to signify the approaching obsolescence of the boundaries between mankind, marks this frontier. However, before crossing over, a sculptural Mary rises up, she the Theotokos (“God-bearer”) who brought God into the world to offer him to all, she the Hodegetria (“She who points the way”) who presents Christ to men of good will and leads them to him. Through the elevation of her child’s little body, Mary displays him for recognition as the Savior of the world, the whole world. And, by so doing, she signifies that if Salvation comes from the Jews, the time has now come when true worshipers will be filled with grace. And there they are already, the true worshipers, on the other side of the border! There is the immense crowd of pagans who will worship the Father in spirit and in truth, a crowd represented here in the persons of a humble shepherd and a poor cowherd. There they are, poor in spirit, the gentle and meek of heart, the pure of heart, the merciful, those who hunger for holiness. It is in fact for just these practitioners of spiritual childhood, of all places and all times, that Mary displays her little king of Love, revealing that the infinite and immutable divinity of the Only Begotten One has never been better manifested than in the pliability of his human childhood.

 

The Flight to Egypt, Jean-Baptiste-Marie Pierre (1713–1789), Church of Saint-Sulpice, Paris, France.

© COARC / Roger-Viollet.