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.

A mystic betrothal

Anthony van Dyck, The Vision of the Blessed Hermann Joseph, c. 1639/30, KHM, Inv. no GG 488

It has become dark and a bit chilly. The thick fabrics in which I am swathed keep me warm though. First red, then blue, as is proper for me, for blue is the colour of the heavens whilst the red symbolises the birth of my son. Still there is something of a draft on my toes, but thus can you see that I am part of this world today and now, and steadfast too. Like the massive column in the background—an appealing analogy.

Hermann, a monk of the Premonstratensian order kneels before me, but I do not return his longing look.

I want to give the ceremony unfolding before your eyes the space and attention that it deserves. Nothing should impede your view, and so I have bid you to approach more closely.

The occasion to which you are now witness will change his life: he will receive a second name, and eventually be canonised. I hold the ring that is a sign of our betrothal between my delicate fingers, and let it glide slowly into Hermann’s open hand.

He is ready.

Time and again he brought me fresh apples and dreamed of my warming presence. The lightly clothed angel between us sensitively guides my suitor’s trembling hand. I am worried whether he, cloaked in heavy gowns, will ever be able to stand up straight again, but I will give him this strength.

 

Behind me stands another young man. My advisors will later say that he is the painter who translated my stage directions: Anthony van Dyck. It almost seems that he wants to make me a proposal.

 

Or perhaps he even wishes that I feel his breath?

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