In the previous post I shared a little something about one of my new used books, The Mother of God: Art Celebrates Mary, but I didn’t have time to do much more than mention it. Tonight I want to begin looking inside it and I’ll share that with you. I can’t reproduce the works from the book without violating copyright, but I’ll share what I can find in the public domain where possible. (Links at the end of this post.)
Tonight when I opened the book it opened on the page that features that beautiful painting from the cover, the Madonna and Child by Giovanni Battista Salvi, known also as Sassoferrato (d. 1685). The painting gets nearly a full glossy page to itself and I’m so glad because Sassoferrato is one of my favorite artists and this is one of my favorite paintings by him. The banners for the posts in this series have all so far featured other images of the Blessed Virgin Mary by him, too. The way he uses colors and the expressions on the faces of the Madonna and Child get to me. I fear I shall overuse the word “beautiful” when discussing his work but it is beautiful.
“The half-moon beneath Mary’s feet refers to the Immaculate Conception. Mary is seated amid clouds and surrounded by the heads of cherubs, a reference to the Book of Revelation (12:1). Clearly inspired by the Virgin as the Madonna of the Rosary is the Child who holds an amber rosary topped by a rose, a symbol of Mary, Queen of Hearts…The Child’s necklace of coral prefigures Christ’s Passion, pointing to the salvation of humankind and the victory of good over evil that results from Christ’s sacrifice.” [Coral represents blood going back to at least the time of Ovid.]The Mother of God: Art Celebrates Mary, John Paul II Cultural Center, page 47.
Sassoferrato painted hundreds of canvases of the Mother of God, so much so that he became known as the “painter of Madonnas.” I long to have one of his paintings in a large size on a wall in the den. All of these JPGs are lovely but I want something I can look at any time, something that arrests the eye, and that others can see, too. I could put it over the mantle, or, once I rearrange the furniture, on the wall where the sofa is now but will be perpendicular to it then.
Sadly, I can’t quite get the JPG to match the color I’ve seen on this painting elsewhere. It’s a much more delicate coloring, the blue of the sky around her is a much more delicate blue without the unfortunate yellow tint. I’ve tried to adjust the colors in Photoshop Elements, but I don’t have the necessary skill and/or Elements can’t do it. I mean, look at the photo on this page and look at the unedited one above. When I tried to get rid of the yellow, I ended up with a washed out look that robs the painting of its original power and freshness. (I don’t have the terminology to really discuss this, yet, but I’m working on it, slowly.)
There are some other paintings in my (JPG) collection (I only wish they were canvases) that kind of remind me of this one. Here’s a different one by Sassoferrato and then one by Raphael Sanzio.
In Raphael’s painting we see an example of the genre known as sacred conversation:
“The painting is a sacra conversazione, where holy figures seem to be in conversation and draw the audience into their discussion…As St. John points to Jesus, he clearly looks out to us, pulling us in, while St. Francis points to us and looks at the Christ Child”The Madonna of Foligno, Wikimedia.
There is so much to unpack in these paintings. The symbolism, the painting techniques, the way the artists use color. I’ve just been wading into this subject, but if you want to go further (way further than I can take you), I highly recommend Illustrated Prayer and Ad Imaginem Dei. Lovely, lovely, lovely, and entertaining, too. Check out Karina’s Rosary books on her homepage while you’re at it. :)
Thank you for reading. I hope you enjoy your visit. God bless you and may His peace be always with you and yours. :)
This has been a post in the Something About Mary Every Day In May series.
Links and Notes
- The Mother of God: Art Celebrates Mary, by the John Paul II Cultural Center and the Vatican Museums. Paperback. Other editions available from third pary sellers. Also see the book’s page at the Vatican Museums site.
- Photo of Pope Francis blesssing the Madonna and Child in 2015.
- Madonna and Child paintings by Sassoferrato and Raphael Sanzio, from Wikimedia. Public domain.
- The Madonna of Foligno, by Raphael Sanzio, description at Wikimedia.
- Illustrated Prayer and Ad Imaginem Dei, two Catholic art sites that are both treasures and a pleasure to behold.
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