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Virgin Mary Figurine

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Artifact Description

The cargo of religious artifacts aboard the SS Republic included four examples of a porcelain figurine of the Virgin Mary standing with arms outstretched. This porcelain, like the others recovered from the wreck site, was very likely the product of one of the many 19th-century French Limoges porcelain factories mass producing such wares for the American market. These "objects of religion" were largely used in church decoration and domestic worship to satisfy the growth in personal piety as well as the Victorian protocol of filling the American home with material objects that nurtured Christian beliefs and doctrine. This practice evolved out of the centuries-old European Catholic tradition of the holy corner set aside in private homes for personal prayer.

In two of the four examples, the Virgin Mary wears a crown of 12 stars or flowers, which probably represent both the Twelve Tribes of Israel and the 12 Apostles. The two other examples including the one featured here do not bear the crown. The figurine wears a long, flowing robe that covers her head over another long garment belted at the waist. She stands on a half-sphere composed of a six-footed pedestal base with a depiction of the sun in the center. This portrayal was probably inspired by Sister Catherine Labouré’s visions of the Virgin Mary in Paris in 1830 in which the Virgin wore a white silk robe with arms outstretched in a stance that typcially symbolized the Immaculate Conception. During this apparition, Mary apparently informed Sister Labouré that the globe on which she stood “represents the whole world, and France in particular, and eveyone in it.” No obvious mold lines are apparent. The base was probably attached separately.


Other Details

Dimensions:
H: 20.3 cm

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