Évêque (1979.115) [Bishop (1979.115)], 2020, Metal cabinet, plaster, mirror, projected light, 102,5 x 50,5 x 46 cm

There’s a gap between the modesty and anonymity of the small sculpture of a bishop that inspired this piece, and its dynamic, active posture. Desjardins’ piece consists of a church pulpit that is lit from above but also partially hidden inside an antique cabinet. Using symbolic codes from Catholicism that reference the divine light, the composition also uses its quasi-concealment to underline Québec culture’s complicated relationship with religion.

On October 6, 2020, at 5:22 p.m., Nathalie Galego, Assistant Curator of Collections, sent Chloé Desjardins a description of object 1979.115.

The object I selected is a small polychrome wooden sculpture that portrays an anonymous bishop. He is presented in his formal attire on a pedestal that looks like a staircase. He is dressed in a white alb, a long white tunic, reaching to his feet, cinched at the waist by a cord, topped by a long blue mantle and a mitre of the same colour. He is standing with his hips slightly slung, his clothes fluttering in the wind, and holding a staff in his right hand. His posture suggests that his likeness was immortalized in the midst of an oratorical flight, attempting to convince the faithful Catholic believers with his rhetoric, boldly preaching the word of God.

This sculpture has always caught my attention since I discovered it during the move of the MAJ’s collection in 2013. It sits on a shelf in the Museum’s mobile storage with another small sculpture of a lady reading to a child. Because it is small and anonymous, it is one of the many “orphan” works in the MAJ’s collections. Indeed, nothing is known about this work except that it was on display in the permanent exhibition Parcours d’une collection presented from 1992 to 2008. Neither the artist nor the date of production is known. The file for this work is virtually empty, as is the case for many of the objects stored in the MAJ’s reserves. Yet, this bishop, who strikes a sympathetic chord for me, would deserve some documentary attention, I think.

Unknown artist, Bishop, 18th century, Polychrome wood, 27,3 x 16 x 12,5 cm

Collection of Musée d’art de Joliette. Gift of the Honourable Serge Joyal, P.C., O.C. 1979.115