As the festive season approaches, the usual quest for appropriate Christmas cards gets under way, and, yes – you can find some such cards using designs by Margaret Agnes Rope.
They are published and printed by the Carmelite convent at Quidenham, which houses the community of nuns of which Marga was a member (as Sister Margaret Of The Mother Of God) between 1923 and her death in 1953. The nuns at Quidenham still honour her memory.
Curiously, only one of the seven Marga Christmas cards printed by Quidenham is actually of a stained-glass window – the ‘Paris’ Nativity window. This window was created in the 1930s by her, and, after some moves, was eventually installed in Quidenham Chapel.
Another one in this series of cards also features the early sketch that Marga made for that ‘Paris’ Nativity window (see pic, below).
Arts & Crafts
The designs on three of the other five cards were originally simply private seasonal cards specifically made by Marga for a limited circulation, ie among her sister nuns.
Marga designed many illustrated cards in her lifetime, but these should not be seen just as the casual works of a quiet moment. In fact, these ‘minor works’ reflect the Arts & Crafts ethos she learnt as a student: an ethos which called on artists to be pluri-disciplinary craftspeople, and to experiment with different media. For example, her ‘Bethlehem’ card (see below) is an example of a very innovative approach to the City Of God motif she depicted so often elsewhere but one that would not have worked in glass.
The last two of the Quidenham-printed cards are actually photographs. These show the life-size painted Nativity figures put together and created by Marga for the private Christmas services at Quidenham.
This collection of figures – about a dozen of them – was actually not seen in public until 2016, when the convent loaned them to the Margaret Rope Exhibition at Shrewsbury Museum. Until then, the figures had never been seen outside the nuns’ private chapel.
You’ll find details of the seven cards, and their prices, on the Quidenham website:
The Word was made Flesh / Paris Window (Classic 63); Bethlehem (Classic 75); Journey of The Magi (Midi 17); Midwinter Madonna / Paris Window sketch (Midi 37); Come and Adore (Midi 48); Margaret Rope Crib Figures 1 (Midi 2): and Margaret Rope Crib Figures 2 (Midi 47).
In the archives
Of course, there are many more card designs by Marga, most of which are lying neglected in her unresearched papers. She seems to have enjoyed the private pleasure of creating and making cards for friends & family.
One of the most exciting aspects of recent news – ie that Marga’s papers are being transferred to a new, custom-built archives room – is that scholars will at last be able to sift through the documents properly. They will probably find many more previously unknown drawings by her, including designs for cards.
One card that we are already aware of, and believe that the original will be there somewhere in the papers, is her World War Two Christmas card, which shows a soldier, sailor and airman approaching the Christmas stable (see below).
This card was also created for the community of her fellow nuns. You can see the evidence for this belief in the words inscribed across the snow ‘Carmel Rushmere Suffolk‘. Her Carmelite community was then based in the Suffolk town of Rushmere – before moving to Quidenham Monastery in 1948.
THIS ARTICLE WAS ORIGINALLY WRITTEN IN 2017. UPDATED DEC 2018
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