Images of the Virgin Mary: a fleet-footed online tour of the collections

The present series, to which a new text will be added every two weeks, takes what may seem a rather contemporary approach: works of art are presented from the point of view of the person portrayed—the Virgin Mary.
We would like to provide a gentle note of reminder: sympathetic identification with the protagonist was the original purpose of precious votive paintings, long before such works came to be exhibited in museums in the 19th century.

Hercules and Jesus

Jan Gossaert, called Mabuse, Mary and Child, c. 1525/1527, KHM, Inv. no. GG 942

I feel the strength of my son brought to life, pressing forward. I do not resist. I support him though he has just freed himself from my womb.

The surface of the furniture at my feet is smooth, as is the seat of stone upon which I sit maintaining my composure despite the child in my arms who bursts with energy.

He is yet swaddled in a crimson cloth, but he will leave my protective care to your benefit.

Over us curves an arch of brass:


This is the inscription you see on the edge of the niche which until now was ours. It is a passage from the first Book of Moses that I shall literally translate for you:

“The fruit of the women’s womb, Jesus, has crushed the serpent’s head”.

What does it signify? Jesus is my son and Jesus stands for all believing Christians. The serpent is Satan, whom Jesus through his Passion and death on the cross has defeated to the good of all.

I saw his earthly end from the very beginning; now you understand the hint of melancholy in my thoughts and expression. I feel with him, I feel his pain.

But he will triumph over the devil, who schemes to lead you astray from the right path, just as once the young Hercules throttled the snakes that Hera sent to his cradle.

written by written by Cäcilia Bischoff, translated by Joshua Stein on 28.9.2017 in #Marienbilder
to top