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.

Balance and Harmony

Raphael, Madonna in the Meadow, 1505/06, KHM, Inv. No. GG 175

Nowadays, and here in Florence, I dispense with my throne. Humbly I sit upon nature’s earth, though in a slightly elevated position.

Jesus has only recently taken his first steps on the soft grass, he treads elegantly as I support him lightly.

How soft and warm he feels.

His delicate hair is growing in nicely, his skin shimmers ivory white with his reddish cheeks providing a good match.

Adroitly I conceal what I sit upon, for here harmony is more important than earth-bound realism.

My left foot completes the triangle that I form together with little John the Baptist.

Though wagging tongues may assert that this is the only reason he is portrayed with us in the picture, I fondly recall the ancient legend according to which young John met us upon our return from Egypt.

In the desert.

Artistic freedom.

I was most certainly created foremost as a work of art, even though I remain a finely executed devotional image.

You see us in a softly drawn landscape with short grass that is perhaps interlaced with moss, bushes, a poppy flower, strawberries, trees, a lake on whose shore a town may be discerned, hills and mountains. An invisible sun illuminates the scene from a pale blue sky dotted with fair-weather clouds.

Jesus and John the Baptist share a toy: it is the cross upon which my son will die.

And it is pointed towards me.

I try not to think about his fate. Our close triangular relationship will stand the test of time.

written by Cäcilia Bischoff, translated by Joshua Stein on 12.6.2017 in #Marienbilder
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