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Monday, January 19, 2015

Saint Agnes of Rome


David Gauld (1865 - 1936)
Saint Agnes
1889–1890
Oil on canvas
61.3 x 35.8 cm
National Galleries of Scotland, Edinburgh


Gauld was a good friend of Charles Rennie Mackintosh and had studied part-time at Glasgow School of Art.

He designed for stained-glass windows and one can see there is a glass design or tapestry quality to this work

One of the "Glasgow Boys", one can see the influence of Japanese painting and the pre-Raphaelites

The painting was shown at the Munich (Glaspalast) International Exhibition of 1890

It was exhibited there with his work "Music in Japan" which is now in The Hunterian Museum at The University of Glasgow

Saint Agnes  was sold to the influential art dealer Alexander Reid,  friend and model of James Abbott McNeill Whistler and Vincent van Gogh

The work has been described as "an extraordinary anticipation of Art Nouveau"

This was not Gauld`s first work or the last on the theme of St Agnes. In 1889, he finished The Procession of St Agnes:


David Gauld (1865 - 1936)
The Procession of Saint Agnes
c 1893
Oil on canvas
90.8 by 76.2 cm
Private collection


St Agnes, the early Christian martyr who at the age of thirteen refused an arranged marriage, was executed in AD 304 

She became the patron saint of young girls and the subject of a famous poem by John Keats. 

St Agnes Eve, 20-21 January, was a time of celebration when young women could, according to legend, foretell their future husbands

It was contrary to Roman law to put a virgin to death. 

The death caused a scandal to the Roman populace  of the time. The leaders of Rome alleged that it was necessary to kill Christians in order to preserve the old Roman ways. However such acts  undermined their position

The fact that a young girl fortified only by her Chrisian faith was able to meet an unjust death so equably impressed and intrigued the Roman populace. Such testimony led to greater interest in the faith

In Sermon 273, St Augustine noted that in the recitation of names at the altar of Christ, the names of the Martyrs are recited in the most honoured place