The Visitation order chapel in Nantes

The Visitation order chapel in Nantes

Religious paintings

In 1861, after his return from Rome, Delaunay was commissioned to decorate the chapel of the Visitation order of nuns in Nantes.

This involved frescoes for the two side chapels and the flat wall of the chancel:

For the Chapel of the Sacred Heart:

  • he painted St Marie Alacoque Worshipping the Sacred Heart of Jesus, in the centre
  • and for the side panels, The Good Shepherd and Christ and a Child Bearing Lilies.

For the Chapel of St François de Sales:

  • the central section would show St. François de Sales Giving the Rule of the Visitation to St. Jeanne de Chantal
  • and the side panels St Jeanne de Chantal Saving Her Father from Purgatory and St François de Sales Curing a Leper.

The painting on the flat wall of the chancel shows the Visitation scene flanked by the prophet Isaiah and John the Evangelist. Above it is Christ Crowning the Virgin Mary.


The work was favourably received when it was finished in 1863. The influence of the Italian masters Cimabue, Giotto and Fra Angelico, whom Delaunay had greatly admired and copied during his time in Rome, is clearly visible in the choice of colours and the simple purity of the drawing.

Preliminary studies

These two studies indicate Delaunay's preparatory work for the figure of the evangelist on the altar's central panel. The work remains greatly indebted to Flandrin and Ingres in its use of forceful drawing which emphasises the folds and the saint's noble pose. This angel is to be found in Christ Crowning the Virgin Mary, with Delaunay borrowing from the gracefulness of Botticelli for the lightness of the folds and the ethereal distortion of the model.

The Visitation order chapel in Nantes
24,4 x 11,9 cm
Inv. 5877