Notre Dame des Sept Douleurs (Print)
Medium: Lithograph (print)
Dimensions: 54.4 (h) x 40.3 (w) cm
Registration number: X.79.204.1
Location: Living room
Handwritten inscription by Sara Riel:
[To my dear and well-loved mother, may Our Lady of Sorrows console you for the absence of your missionary daughter, through her sacrifice grant you long and happy days!]
(Original in French: A ma chére et bien aimé maman, que notre mère des douleurs vous console de l’absence de votre fille missionaire, par son sacrifice vous accord de longs et heureux jours!)
This hand-coloured lithograph, Notre Dame des Sept Douleurs (Our Lady of Seven Sorrows), was given to Louis Riel’s mother, Julie Lagimodière (1819-1906), by his sister Sara Riel (1848-1883) on June 18, 1871. Sara Riel was a religious sister in the order of the Grey Nuns, and was stationed at Ile à La Crosse. The lithograph has a handwritten note from Sara to her mother sending her love and expressing her hope that the print of the Madonna of Sorrows will be a source of consolation to her own mother. Such small prints, paintings, and illustrations of Christian saints and martyrs have traditionally played an important role in private Catholic devotional life. The presentation of the Virgin Mary as the Madonna of Sorrows is one of many recurrent pictorial traditions used for the portrayal of Mary. The colour in the print was added by hand, and, in keeping with iconographical tradition that is centuries old, the Virgin Mary is shown wearing blue. You may notice that the daggers and heart appear to be on the right side of her body rather than the left, this is because like all other printmaking methods lithograph production results in a mirror image of the artist’s original design.
When this lithograph was acquired in the 1980s it had light and water damage. Parks Canada has taken steps to preserve this valuable cultural resource. The print was cleaned with polyvinyl acetate, then deacidified and bleached to help remove staining. In 2013 the object was carefully cleaned and then sealed into its frame with Art Sorb – a desiccant that maintains the relative humidity within the frame at 50%. UV-filtering Plexiglas was placed on the front of the piece to protect it from further light damage. These conservation steps will help to preserve this work for future generations while also making it possible to keep the object on display for visitors.