Broken statuette of St. Joseph (reproduction)
Maker of replica: Parks Canada Conservation Department (maker of original unknown)
Date: 1980 (Date of original 19th c.)
Media: Maraglass Epoxy (original object porcelain)
Dimensions: 11 cm (h) x 3.8 cm (w)
Registration number: X.80.3.12-.13
Location: Living room
This white palm-sized statuette of St. Joseph is a reproduction of one that is owned by the St. Boniface Museum. According to legend, one day when Riel was praying in his cell after he had been arrested, the statue fell off a shelf and broke. He took this to be an omen of bad things to come.
The original statue is Parian. Parian porcelain was used in the nineteenth century to cast small figures, busts, and occasionally other stoneware such as vases or jugs. The medium was useful because it allowed for mass-production and affordable prices, but the final appearance looked like carved marble. Parks Canada’s reproduction – made from Maraglass Epoxy and then coloured white – was cast from the original statue in 1980. It is meant for interpretive use and it is currently on display at Riel House. Louis Riel came from a Catholic Métis household and the original statue belonged to his family.
The fact that this statue is a representation of Joseph is also significant: Riel and the Catholic community at Red River recognized St. Joseph as the primary patron saint of the Métis people. Among Catholics St. Joseph is also identified as the patron saint of Canada, immigrants, fathers, working people, and a variety of other social groups and places. In religious painting and sculpture saints are typically recognizable from specific attributes and physical traits. Joseph, the husband of Mary, was a carpenter. Though this statue is headless, St. Joseph is recognizable here by the carpenter’s square that he holds in his left hand.