National Gallery of Canada / Musée des beaux-arts du Canada

Bulletin 21, 1973

Annual Index
Author & Subject


Study of a Silver Statue by Salomon Marion

by Jean Trudel

Article en français

Page  1

In 1962 Mr E. E. Poole of Edmonton presented a silver statue of the Virgin Mary (see fig. I) to the National Gallery of Canada. This work, by the silversmith Salomon Marion (Lachenaie, Quebec, 1782 - Montreal, 1830), is unique, and warrants special study.

Made of carved wood painted black, the base of the statue (see fig. 2) is finished to resemble an Ionic column, suggesting an association - conscious or otherwise - between Diana, the virgin of Greek and Roman mythology, and the Virgin Mary. In fact, old treatises on architecture linked the Ionic order with the design of a temple erected in honour of Diana. The silver statue in the National Gallery corresponds quite definitely to the iconography of the doctrine of the Immaculate Conception, which was devoutly followed in New France beginning in the seventeenth century.

From the age of sixteen and a half until the age of twenty-one, Salomon Marion was apprenticed to Pierre Huguet dit Latour (1749-1817). He began working as a silversmith around 1804, and enjoyed a considerable religious clientele. In 1817 and 1818 he received pay for a number of works done at Verchères, near Montreal. Marion's silver statue appears on inventory lists there in 1939 and in 1942; its provenance is established without a doubt by a description and photographs preserved in the Inventory of Works of Art of the Province of Quebec in Quebec City.

The model used by Salomon Marion, or the statue he was asked to copy, is in Notre-Dame Church in Montreal; it depicts an Immaculate Conception, is also made of silver, and was produced in Paris between 1712 and 1717 by an anonymous silversmith (see fig. 6). Early in the eighteenth century it belonged to the Sulpicians in Montreal, and at the end of that century and the beginning of the nineteenth its influence was strong in the Montreal region (see fig. 12); at least three churches had carved wooden copies of it. Marion's silver statue of the Virgin is thus a continuation of the iconographic tradition of the theme of the Immaculate Conception.

If a detailed comparison is made between Marion's Virgin and his French model, notable differences appear. For example, the Virgin's feet are not treated in the same way; Marion's work is not a slavish copy of the original. A very clever technique was used in assembling the silver plates (see fig. 13). Only one part of the statue, the hands, is made of solid silver. Salomon Marion has demonstrated beyond any doubt the excellence of the tradition of silversmithing, a trade that was implanted in New France over a hundred years before he produced this work. He has demonstrated as well the survival of a strong feeling of loyalty to France, and to the religion that she brought to New France.

Top of this page

Home | Français | Introduction | History
Annual Index | Author & Subject | Credits | Contact

This digital collection was produced under contract to Canada's Digital Collections program, Industry Canada.

"Digital Collections Program, Copyright © National Gallery of Canada 2001"