ADAM, Nicolas-Sébastien
(b. 1705, Nancy, d. 1778, Paris)

Monument to Queen Catharina Opalinska

Notre-Dame de Bon Secours, Nancy

Nicolas-Sébastien was the ideal choice for the tomb of Queen Catharina Opalinska, Queen of Poland and Duchess of Lorraine, set up in 1749 in the church of Bon Secours in his native Nancy. Nevertheless, his brother Lambert-Sigisbert struggled hard to be preferred to the task. But panache was not needed so much as lyricism and a gentle piety, in commemorating the quite unglamorous, humble, religious wife of Stanislas of Lorraine and mother of Marie Leczinska.

Bon Secours had been built by Stanislas a few years before with the intention of its containing tombs of himself and his wife, and the church's title might have suggested to Adam the theme he was to illustrate in his touching masterpiece of a soul helped by a vision. The useless royal crown and sceptre, which had proved so barren in life, are deliberately laid aside at the moment of passing from death into immortality. The queen, made youthful again, kneels in prayer, while an angel points her way to heaven. The eagle of Poland, the incense burners that smoke with the queen's praises, are unimportant in the central depiction of a simple allegory.

The juxtaposition of the person commemorated and the angel of immortality is not dramatic. In that lack of drama lies its whole point. The hand of the Lord, the revelation of eternal happiness, cannot startle someone who has waited so long for them. The queen's face expresses no surprise, only ecstasy. The angel and she are integrated into a single form, in effect a bas-relief set against the coloured marble of the pyramid; its steep lines are broken by the long undulating diagonal that runs up from the lowest fold in the queen's mantle and culminates in the extended forefinger of the angel's upraised hand.