|Jennifer Jones as Bernadette Soubirous, 1943|
|St. Bernadette hung in the|
Chalon Library until 1986.
She was Jennifer Jones as Bernadette Soubirous in 1943 drama Song of Bernadette (based on the novel by Fritz Werfel). The 28- by 53-inch oil painting was Rockwell's study for the movie posters that made Jones and St. Bernadette famous. Jones won the Best Actress Oscar for her portrayal.
At some point before 1950 the portrait was donated to Mount St. Mary's College -- a spectacular addition to the still-new Charles Willard Coe Memorial Library. Although the circumstances of the donation are lost, it was a rare and wonderful gift to a small college.
Sad to say, our portrait of St. B was sold in 1986. The Mount needed funds. College treasures were located, inventoried and appraised and reluctantly placed on the auction block. A black-tie gala and silent auction was held in the Doheny Mansion on May 10 that year, and among the proceeds were $10,000 (according to oral history, anyway) for Rockwell's St. Bernadette. The buyer is said to have been a Brentwood neighbor, a gentleman who lived nearby in Mandeville Canyon.
Nothing more was heard of the painting, although we did get occasional questions from alumnae about what happened to it. It was sort of comforting to know St. B was close by.
|New York Times ad for auction|
The painting is to be previewed today and tomorrow in New York City, with the auction scheduled for this Saturday, October 26. The bid estimate is $400,000 to $600,000.
So begins another chapter in Rockwell's painting of our friend St. Bernadette. We hope the eventual owner takes as much inspiration from her as the Mount community did.
|Caption from MSMC auction catalog|