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Tabernacle, c. 1741

Jourdain, Paul (dit Labrosse)
Canadian, 1697 - 1769
gilded butternut and basswood
172.2 x 280.8 x 65 cm
Purchased 1968
National Gallery of Canada (no. 15668.2)

In the Roman Catholic religion, the tabernacle is a locked cabinet holding the elements of the Eucharist, placed in the centre of the altar table. Here, however, the term is expanded to include the entire structure. This gilded example originally graced the church of Saint-Antoine-de-Longueuil, near Montreal. Its ample dimensions and generous ornamentation give a foretaste of the style that would characterize the tabernacles of New France. The art of decorative woodcarving flourished in 18th-century Quebec, stimulated by commissions from a Catholic Church eager to furnish and adorn its places of worship. The tabernacle was the focus of the liturgy, and each church possessed at least one. The decorative artist Paul Jourdain (dit Labrosse) is one of the earliest Canadian woodcarvers about whose artistic career we have any real knowledge. He produced this piece of ecclesiastical furniture for the parish of Longueuil, near Montreal, around 1741. The ornamentation, which covers the entire piece, is in the Louis XIV style and displays the symmetry characteristic of that period. The carving has been enhanced by surface incising and by a lavish application of gold leaf, executed by Les Dames de la Congrégation de Montréal.

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Sculpture

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