I stopped absolutely dumb-struck: this painting was obviously about a miracle! I was touched to the core by how immediate, profoundly, and clearly this came to me. Unfortunately, when you get that far from the touristy first floor, all of the signs are in French, but, just the same, I pulled out my notebook and wrote down: Ex-Voto de 1662 / Philippe de Champaigne.
When I got home, I checked it out, and Ex-Voto de 1662 is indeed a votive offering (or ex-voto) by the painter Philippe de Champaigne which depicts the miraculous cure of his daughter that occurred at the Port-Royal de Paris Cistercian convent. In the painting, a ray of light illuminates Mother-Superior Agnès Arnauld, who experienced on the ninth day of her novena for Champaigne's daughter, Sister Catherine Ste. Suzanne, the hope that a cure would come for Sister Catherine. Catherine (seated, praying) was the painter's only surviving child, and had been suffering from a paralyzing illness. Until that point, prayer and medical treatments ("potions, baths, unctions, and thirty bleedings") had proven futile. After the Mother-Superior's novena, Sister Catherine soon attempted to walk, and found herself increasingly mobile; the illness no longer seemed present.
The painting includes a Latin inscription on the wall on the left of the painting. Neither the text nor the lettering were Champaigne's work.
CHRISTO VNI MEDICO
ANIMARVM ET CORPORVM
SOROR CATHARINA SVSANNA DE
CHAMPAIGNE POST FEBREM 14 MENSI
VM CONTVMACIA ET MAGNITVDINE
SYMPTOMATVM MEDICIS FORMIDATAM
INTERCEPTO MOTV DIMIDII FERE COR
PORIS NATVRA IAM FATISCENTE MEDICIS
CEDENTIBVS IVNCTIS CVM MATRE
CATHARINA AGNETE PRECIBVS PVNCTO
TEMPORIS PERFECTAM SANITATEM
CONSECVTA SE ITERVM OFFERT.
PHILLIPVS DE CHAMPAIGNE HANC
IMAGINEM TANTI MIRACVLI ET
LAETITAE SVAE TESTEM
The inscription, addressed to Christ, tells that Sister Catherine suffered for 14 months from a high fever and that half her body was paralyzed. She prayed with Mother Agnès and her health was restored, and again she offered herself to Christ. Champaigne offers the painting as a testament to this miracle and to express his joy.
This is one of the most amazing works of art that I have ever seen. Even reproductions, which do not ever capture the supernatural luminosity of the actual painting, never fail to touch me deeply. It reminds us always to trust in God's mercy and to renounce our attachment to worldly things.