Mary Ward Painted Life

The so-called "Painted Life" is the greatest treasure of the Institute house in Augsburg. It consists of 50 pictures, which present the interior life of our foundress.

Let us listen to M. Immolata Wetter on this. (some extracts)

Very little information has come down to us as to the date and other historical details of the original 53 pictures. Their place of origin is probably to be located somewhere between Flanders and the Tyrol. As regards the date, the majority of the paintings come from the second half of the seventeenth century. From 1680 until at least 1717 the pictures were in Munich. It has not been possible to establish exactly when they were transferred to Augsburg. At the time of the jurisdiction controversy (1743-1749) the paintings were already in Augsburg. They stayed on the walls of the convent passages until the Bishop of Augsburg, Peter von Richarz (1837-1855) had them removed. He saw great vanity in them. The pictures were relegated to the attics of the Augsburg house. There they stayed, rolled up, until 1889. At the end of the nineteenth century, the pictures, now fifty in number, were restored and brought back to the passage walls. During the Second World War the Painted Life was stored in a castle in Swabia belonging to the Fugger family. Mother Aloisia Loffler, who was responsible for their safe removal, thereby saved the pictures for posterity. In Augsburg they would have gone up in flames along with the house. After 1946, the paintings were hung in the passages of the school building, until in 1977, after restoration, they found a place worthy of them in the Mary Ward Hall. The initiative for the Painted Life comes from the first companions; undoubtedly the next generation was also involved. The Seventeenth century was a picture-loving time, and could look to earlier examples, e.g. Giotto's frescos on the life of St. Francis of Assisi. It is clear from the evidence that Mary Poyntz and Winefrid Wigmore were the two companions mainly responsible for commissioning the work. Those who commissioned it were women who were familiar with Mary Ward's life, and who also knew which scenes to choose, with a view to their significance for the future, and to the difficulties already existing. Experts believe that at least five painters were involved in the work. It is not known who these painters were. Perhaps they are to be found among the painters of votive pictures in pilgrimage churches. The paintings are not of outstanding artistic quality. It can be assumed that the German inscriptions in Gothic script were added in Munich. A full picture of Mary Ward's life is not to be seen in the Painted Life. Many important events are lacking : the moves from place to place, the audiences with the Pope, the imprisonment. The Painted Life is an answer to the question : Who was this woman? What does her life mean?

(10th Letter of Instruction, III-X)