A Seventeenth Century Nativity Frontal from the Workshop of the Ursulines of Quebec

Earlier this month on the feast of the Immaculate Conception we had featured an altar frontal that was designed and created in the seventeenth century by Mother Marie Lemaire des Anges and the Ursulines of Quebec. That particular frontal featured an image of the Immaculate Conception, and today we will look at another antependium designed by the same, likewise in the seventeenth century, this time featuring an image of the Nativity. 

It is important to note that the production of these sorts of paraments was an important vocation and source of revenue for the Ursulines in Quebec at this time, no more so than in the realm of embroidery under the influence of Mother Marie. 

This particular example today employs gold and silver thread with embroideries that utilize needle-painting embroidery techniques and a central medallion of the Nativity that is painted on linen.

In our previous article we had noted how the Annals of the Ursulines in Quebec make particular note of the quality of the floral work and this antependium includes numerous examples of this:

This next example also includes a detail of the silver lace braid found on the edges of the antependium and given that the convent was also known for its lace-making, I suspect these too were made by the Ursulines.

A frontal such as this was likely intended primarily for use during the Christmas season, though evidently it could have been used at any time that called for liturgical white, and given that we are dealing with the Church in its infancy in North America, I think we can reasonably expect it likely was given the time and cost involved in producing such qualitative liturgical art; works that rival and equal anything being produced in Europe at this same period of time.

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