In all of the copies of Jean-Jacques Henner’s ‘Saint Fabiola’ 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. In the majority of these copies we see a simple profile view of her face conform the canonical iconography. Here she has turned to face the viewers, giving them her full attention.
By showing her this way, I wanted to invite 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 tend to the sick and vulnerable. With this work I wanted to draw attention to the fact they are real people, rather than just masked figures in a healthcare system.