In all of the copies I have ever seen, ‘Saint Fabiola’ (the patron saint of nursing) is depicted in profile view, facing left. She has a kind of introspective or meditative expression on her face and wears a red veil. The background is invariably deep black.
I couldn’t help but wonder how she would look facing the viewer. Also I was more interested in what Henner didn’t paint than what he did paint. Here she has turned to face the viewers, giving them her full attention.
By showing her this way, I think I wanted to invite the viewers to engage with her as a person, rather than simply the patron saint of caregiving and nursing. During the COVID-19 pandemic, caregivers have been on the front lines of the crisis, working tirelessly to care for the sick and vulnerable. I wanted to draw attention to the fact they are real people, rather than just faceless figures in a healthcare system.