GÉRARD, François
(b. 1770, Roma, d. 1837, Paris)

St Theresa

Oil on canvas, 172 x 93 cm
Infirmerie Marie-Thérèse, Paris

In 1819 Chateaubriand's wife conceived the idea of a charitable asylum for distressed noblewomen and priests fallen on hard times. It was christened the Infirmerie Marie-Therese, after the wife of the future Charles X. It was adame Récamier who took the lead in commissioning David's pupil Gérard to paint the princess's patron saint, Theresa of Ávila - most famous for her concept of 'mystic marriage' with God — and presented the picture to the new chapel.

The painting was shown in the salon before being installed in the chapel. With its beautiful saint kneeling in rapt devotion, the work soon became as defining work of Romanticism as Delacroix's Sardanapalus, seen in the same exhibition.