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.

A digital painting of a woman's face with rosy skin, dark hair and a red veil covering the top of her head and right shoulder, against a black background. Her left shoulder is almost bare. The woman faces the viewer, she has blue eyes and a serene yet intense expression. The image features vibrant colours, with warm shades of pink, deep black, and intense red dominating the overall color scheme.
‘Night nurse’ – digital painting – 2022; 1/1
22 x 29 cm, print on Canson Velin Museum Rag 250gsm – Matte
An oil painting by Jean-Jacques Henner depicting Saint Fabiola, a woman standing against a dark background with a serene expression. She wears a red veil, with warm, rosy skin and delicately rendered features. The painting is known for its striking simplicity and use of muted colors, with the woman's face drawing the viewer's attention. Completed in 1885, the painting is a canonical iconographic representation of Saint Fabiola.
‘Saint Fabiola’ by Jean-Jacques Henner is an oil painting of Saint Fabiola made in accordance with the canonical iconography. Completed in 1885, the painting depicts a woman standing against a dark background, dressed in a simple red robe and a red veil. The woman’s face is delicately rendered, with warm, rosy skin and a serene expression. Her pose and expression suggest introspection and meditation, drawing the viewer’s attention to the expressive quality of her face. The painting is known for its striking simplicity and use of muted colors, which draw attention to the woman’s visage. Henner’s painting has become an icon of the late 19th century and an important representation of Saint Fabiola.