"He instinctively can find the shining greatness of our American culture and does a good job of highlighting it (although he also does have those rare lapses when he writes about hockey, but that is something caused by impurities in the Eastern waters or something)." Erik Keilholtz
Under the patronage of St. Tammany
Mark C. N. Sullivan is an editor at a Massachusetts university. He is married and the father of three children. Email
Thursday, November 13, 2003 In defense of Mrs. Jack
Bill Cork describes a presentation on religious fundamentalism given by theologian Sister Mary Boys, SNJM, at a liturgy conference in California that has drawn criticism from the right.
Fundamentalists don't like change. But, as Cardinal Newman said, "In a higher world it may be otherwise, but here below, to live is to change." She told an appropriate story about the Isabella Stuart Gardner Museum in Boston. In one corner of one room is a ghastly full-length portrait of Ms. Gardner--and according to the will, it cannot be moved.
Is the "ghastly full-length portrait" of Mrs. Gardner cited the one by Sargent?
When the painting was shown at the St. Botolph Club, Boston, it caused a bit of a stir. The décolletage and the flattering curves of her dress made her husband request that the painting never be exhibited in public again during his lifetime. Mrs Jack honored his wishes and even refused repeated requests by Sargent to show it in other exhibitions until after her own death, but she clearly loved the painting.
Each to his own, of course, and as Burke said, prudent change is the means of preservation. But the art of John Singer Sargent doesn't strike me as Exhibit A in a case to replace the timeworn and fusty (though sensibilities to that effect have accompanied the stripping of altars for 40 years). Had Mrs. Jack been alive, would she have signed the Agatha Christie Indult petition?
Bet she would have. See this memorable column by the Globe's Alex Beam on the Anglo-Catholic Requiem Mass for Isabella Stewart Gardner that was sung every spring at her museum.
(Ed. Note: I don't know that Bill C. or Sister Boys referred to the Sargent portrait, and I'm half expecting Erik Keilholtz to argue Sargent should be chucked as the Thos Kinkade of the belle époque drawing-room set. But I'm happy for the excuse to post the piece on Mrs. Jack's annual smells-and-bells requiem, a tradition I believe has been discontinued. Might a local Anglo-Catholic reader respond with more info?)