Joe, thanks for your contributions to this thread. Really nice to get a response from Ms St. Marie. My friend who manages the Driftwood collection at the Univ. of Central Arkansas is of the opinion that Jimmy was inspired to write his version by a joke. And that may well be the case. Or he may have had Robert Service's poem as well. He must have read some of Service's poetry. Since his song "The Picture At St. Helene" bears a close similarity to "My Madonna".
by Robert W. Service
I haled me a woman from the street,
Shameless, but, oh, so fair!
I bade her sit in the model's seat
And I painted her sitting there.
I hid all trace of her heart unclean;
I painted a babe at her breast;
I painted her as she might have been
If the Worst had been the Best.
She laughed at my picture and went away.
Then came, with a knowing nod,
A connoisseur, and I heard him say;
"'Tis Mary, the Mother of God."
So I painted a halo round her hair,
And I sold her and took my fee,
And she hangs in the church of Saint Hillaire,
Where you and all may see.
THE PICTURE AT ST. HELENE
I met a girl in a cheap hotel
With features oh so fine.
She said, "Hello," and we sat a spell
While I painted her form devine.
I took away all her sins,
Put a babe in her arms, you see,
And I painted her as she would have been
If the devil had let her be.
She walked away with a cigarette
And I thought is strangely odd
When a gambler came and said, "I'll bet
You've painted the mother of God."
So I added a halo to the scene,
It brought ten thousand pounds.
She hangs on the wall at St. Helene
In the biggest church in town.
My model attracted a wealthy guy,
He offered her gold for a kiss.
She turned him down and I wondered why
She would miss a deal like this.
So I followed her to the marble hall,
There I saw her stand serene
Before the picture on the wall
In the church at St. Helene. ^^