A young nun gazes outwards from her frame in an attitude of calm. She is barely human; her artist has crafted her as he crafted his buildings and she is lapidary, statuesque, constructed. With her right hand she has seized her wimple and lifted it away from her bodice, exposing her swollen, luscious breasts and sharply contracted nipples. She has the dark, animal eyes of a Pompeiian portrait.
Below her, the inscription: "Et nous aussi nous serons meres, car.....!" "We too shall be mothers, because.....!"
Architect, eccentric and artist Jean-Jacques Le Queu's fetishistic engraving was created circa 1794 as propaganda for an extraordinary anti-clerical reign of terror in French history. For a few years, it was not even permitted to believe in God. Maximilien Robespierre introduced the secular Goddess of Reason and Temple of Wisdom. Revolutionaries closed convents and churches and forced priests and nuns to abandon the religious life. Nuns were told to go out and have babies. If they refused, as many did, they were condemned to death. Thousands fled as refugees, and many more were captured and went singing to the guillotine.
This image is both disturbing and inviting. The rather indelicate juxtaposition of a provacative young nymph offering herself, with her nun's habit and bizarre facial expression, seems like something out of a Dali painting or a modern fetish magazine, not the late 1700's.
This image was used recently as the cover for the novel We Too Shall Be Mothers by Sallie Muirden.