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 was Marga’s home (as Sister Margaret Of The Mother Of God) between 1948 and her death in 1953. The nuns at Quidenham still honour her memory.
Curiously, only one of the five Marga Christmas cards printed by Quidenham features a stained-glass window – the ‘Paris’ Nativity window, created in the 1930s but since transferred to Quidenham Chapel (see pic, below, original copyright John Salmon).
Arts & Crafts
The designs on three of the other four 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 of the Quidenham-printed cards is actually a photograph. It shows the life-size painted figures which make up a nativity scene put together and created by Marga. This collection of figures – about a dozen of them – was actually not seen in public until last year, when the convent loaned them to the Margaret Rope Exhibition at Shrewsbury Museum. Until then, the figures had been the Christmas highlight in the nuns’ private chapel.
You’ll find details of the five cards, and their prices, on the Quidenham website:
The Word was made Flesh / Paris (Classic 63); Bethlehem (Classic 75); Midwinter Madonna (Midi 37); Come and Adore (Midi 48); Margaret Rope Crib Figures (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.
One of the most exciting aspects of the recent news – that Marga’s papers are being transferred (as we speak) to a new, custom-built archives room – is that scholars will at last be able to sift through the documents properly – and will probably find unidentified drawings by her, including designs for cards.
One card that we are aware of, and believe will be there in the papers, is her World War Two Christmas card, which shows a soldier, sailor and airman approaching the stable (see below). It will be a revelation to see the real thing.
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