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.

Beyond the grave

Peter Paul Rubens, Large Lamentation, c. 1614/15, KHM, Inv. no. GG 529

From my son’s cold temple I draw a last thorn. The deep red blood fuses with the paling colour of my dead child’s skin. I will shut his lovely eyes. The blue death spots are increasing. From his nose a bit of blood has flowed.

He died on the cross.

We have covered his body with a clean, white cloth to protect it. Before us the tomb lies empty.

My tears fall upon his shoulder.

John, my son’s favourite disciple, holds the right arm of the corpse. He moves calmly and with composure; his hands and cheeks are rubicund. I however have assumed the pallor of my son.

At this, the saddest moment of my earthly existence, we could have withdrawn to the tomb’s darkness, but I wanted you to be able to see us at close hand and feel in all its facets the suffering patiently borne.

John lifts the tortured hand slightly towards you so that you are unable to overlook it. Nothing is to obstruct the view. This, I suspect, is not a coincidence, but the artist’s skill.

But think now of the seventh of my son’s seven last words: “It is finished”.

written by written by Cäcilia Bischoff, translated by Joshua Stein on 19.9.2017 in #Marienbilder
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