DescriptionOur holiday cards feature a blue-robed angel kneeling adoringly, the rosy glow of a taper on his face, bordered in metallic gold ink. This charming seraph is reproduced from a detail of the painting The Last Communion of Saint Mary of Egypt, executed in 1680 in oil on copper by italian painter Marcantonio Franceschini (1648– 1729). Franceschini represents the last bloom of the classical tradition initiated in Bologna by the Carracci. His art strove for clarity of expression and an idealized humanity consonant with the religious and mythological stories that he depicted, such as this painting, which now hangs in the Museum's collection. Greeting: Joyous Christmas.
20 metallic-bordered cards and 20 envelopes per box. 4 7/8'' x 6 1/4''.
In art, Mary of Egypt is often coupled with Mary Magdalen, the latter always appearing younger and physically more attractive. The painting on which our holiday cards are based initially had a pendant depicting The Ecstasy of Saint Mary Magdalen
painted on a piece of copper the same size as the work and with figures on the same scale. Giampietro Zanotti, Franceschini’s friend and biographer, reported that the two pictures were painted in 1680 and that later they were purchased by the Senate of Bologna, which presented them to Pope Clement XI. In the hope of enlisting the pope’s support for the founding of an art academy in Bologna, the Senate offered the pictures as a diplomatic gift to the pope’s two nephews, who were briefly in Bologna in the spring of 1709. The nephews refused the gift, in consideration of Clement’s efforts to avoid nepotism, but the Senate persisted and shipped the paintings to Rome, where the pope was so overcome by their beauty that he accepted the gift himself and sponsored the academy, which, in recognition of his endorsement, was named the Accademia Clementina.
The gift of the two paintings may also have led to the pope’s subsequent patronage of Franceschini. In the spring of 1711 he commissioned the artist to make thirteen large cartoons for mosaics in a chapel in Saint Peter’s. During the fifteen months Franceschini spent in Rome, the pope knighted him, and nine years later made him a member of the Militia of Saint Benedict.