An Expression of Faith

Thursday, 27 September 2007 to Monday, 24 March 2008

Sacred Art of Centuries Past

The Art Gallery of Nova Scotia is pleased once again to present the special exhibition from the Permanent Collection, An Expression of Faith: Sacred Art of Centuries Past. Originally mounted in 1998, the exhibition is featured this year in conjunction with the concert A Tribute to Salzinnes scheduled for October 27, 2007 at St. Mary’s Basilica. Created in 1554-1555 for Dame Julienne de Glymes at the Cistercian Abbey of Salzinnes in Namur, present day Belgium, the Salzinnes Antiphonal was donated by Archbishop James M. Hayes to the Patrick Power Library, Saint Mary’s University in 1975-76. This rare illuminated manuscript containing plain chant music was discovered and identified while undertaking research for the exhibition, An Expression of Faith: Sacred Art of Centuries Past. The Art Gallery of Nova Scotia shares in the special premiere concert celebrations of the Salzinnes Antiphonal with the re-mounting of this unique collection of religious sculptures, as the inspiration behind the discovery of this important manuscript.

The History

An Expression of Faith: Sacred Art of Centuries Past features twenty works comprising a select group of fifteenth, sixteenth and seventeenth century North European sculptures including scenes from the Passion of Christ – Christ Bearing the Cross, The Crucifixion and The Lamentation of Christ, donated by the Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Halifax.

Similar to the Salzinnes Antiphonal, currently undergoing restoration at the Canadian Conservation Institute (CCI) in Ottawa, the three featured polychrome sculptures in the exhibition, dating from approximately 1470 to 1510 were restored by twenty-one conservators and scientists over a period fifteen years with 9,000 hours of restoration work. The longest conservation project ever undertaken by CCI, the treatment included the removal of numerous layers of over-paint (in some cases up to at least a dozen identifiable layers), reinforcing the substrate due to severe insect damage, filling in the losses, re-attaching a broken head, inpainting the fills and applying a protective coating. Originally installed by Bishop William Walsh in the Chapel Built in a Day, Holy Cross Cemetery, the sculptures were brought to Nova Scotia by Walsh as a result of his travels to Europe in the 1840’s. Research also indicates that Bishop Walsh, who in 1852 became the first Archbishop for the Archdiocese of Halifax, may also have been responsible for acquiring the Salzinnes Antiphonal, most likely in France.

The exhibition re-creates a small Gothic Chapel with the sculptures supplemented by a stunning replica of a thirteenth century German stained glass window created by the Sattler’s Studios of West La Have and display components hand carved by Halifax craftsman, Kenny Parsons. Each item was meticulously designed and produced specifically for the exhibition in the Gothic style. A supplemental exhibition of paintings, prints and artifacts from public and private collections will be presented in the adjoining gallery.

An Expression of Faith: Sacred Art of Centuries Past displays works of artistic and historical significance rarely found, particularly in art museums in North America. The quality of craftsmanship of these impressive early carvings provides an opportunity for our visitors to view a significant holding in the Art Gallery of Nova Scotia’s Permanent Collection. With the reinstallation of the exhibition, the Gallery is proud to partner with A Tribute to Salzinnes concert presenters Scotia Festival of Music and Saint Mary’s University to celebrate the premiere performance of the Salzinnes Antiphonal. A panel discussion about the Salzinnes Antiphonal is scheduled for October 26, 2007, 1:30 pm, at the Art Gallery of Nova Scotia and will also include tours of the exhibition An Expression of Faith: Sacred Art of Centuries Past.

Judy Dietz
Associate Curator,
Historical European Art