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Ary Scheffer, Saints Augustine and Monica

Key facts
Full title Saints Augustine and Monica
Artist Ary Scheffer
Artist dates 1795 - 1858
Date made 1854
Medium and support Oil on canvas
Dimensions 135.2 × 104.8 cm
Inscription summary Signed; Dated
Acquisition credit Bequeathed by Robert Hollond, with a life-interest to his widow; entered the Collection, 1885
Inventory number NG1170
Location Not on display
Collection Main Collection
Previous owners
Saints Augustine and Monica
Ary Scheffer

In 1845 Ary Scheffer painted an episode recounted by Saint Augustine in his Confessions. The Church Father recalled sitting with his mother Monica shortly before her death and discussing the kingdom of heaven. The picture, for which Scheffer used his own mother as the model for Saint Monica, became very popular, and in 1854 he painted this version, using a previous portrait sitter, Mrs Robert Hollond, for Monica. Scheffer’s portrait of Mrs Hollond is also in the National Gallery’s collection.

The artist was known for the expressiveness of his compositions and he created an image of eloquent simplicity in which the holy mother and son sit side-by-side and hand-in-hand staring contemplatively towards heaven whose light bathes them in a sunset glow. He made a picture that is both an image of divine mystery and a portrayal of the love between a mother and son.

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