Saturday, December 06, 2014

‘Picturing Mary’

Washington exhibit invites prayer, contemplation and awe.

MARY AND JESUS. Elisabetta Sirani, Virgin and Child, 1663; oil on canvas, 34 × 27 1/2 in.; National Museum of Women in the Arts, Washington, D.C.
“Picturing Mary: Woman, Mother, Idea” brings together an extraordinary collection of paintings, reliefs, chasubles, statues and sketches, all of which reveal to the world the beauty that is Mary. 
Starting Dec. 5 and running through April 12, 2015, the National Museum of Women in the Arts in Washington hosts a treasure trove of images of the Virgin Mary by Renaissance and Baroque artists. The art was gathered from the Vatican, the Musee du Louvre, Galleria degli Uffizi, Palazzo Pitti and other private and public collections.
It is a remarkable assortment of beautiful sacred art.
 The exhibit is organized into six rooms, reflecting the various themes developed in the process of rendering a vision of the Blessed Mother.  
The six themes were “Madonna and Child,” “Woman and Mother,” “Mother of the Crucified,” “Mary as Idea,” “A Singular Life” and “Mary in the Life of the Believers.” The online tour further allows one to explore the universal appeal of the Virgin Mary and how she was often rendered to reflect the culture of those who venerated her through art. 
Msgr. Timothy Verdon, director of the Museo dell’Opera del Duomo and canon of the Florence Cathedral, came to Washington for the premiere of the exhibit.
He provided a wealth of information about the history behind each of the pieces, the artists themselves and the details within each work. 
For example, he noted that female artist Artemisia Gentileschi in the early 1600s had no hesitancy about portraying a mother preparing to nurse her baby, while male artists of the same time period shied away from such realness. He also drew special attention to Botticelli’s Madonna of the Book, showing where another artist, at some later point, added a gold crown of thorns and infant-sized nails to represent Christ’s coming crucifixion.  
The story of Mary, he said, “spoke of how God could have just allowed truth and light to explode in our hearts and minds, but instead opted for a more gradual way,” allowing us to grow in love for him as a child grows in a mother’s womb, Mary’s womb.  
But even for the nonbeliever, the depictions of Mary reveal the concerns of the time, the sensibilities of the artist, the fashion of the day and the debates within the Church about particular aspects of the faith at that time.

Contemplative and Intimate Experience
The layout of the exhibit allows for a much more contemplative and intimate experience of these beautiful works of art than one normally experiences in a museum showcasing works of Fra Filippo Lippi, Michelangelo, Lorenzo di Credi and Rembrandt.
The exhibit invites one to spend time in contemplation, to let one’s eyes rest on the details of a halo, a wisp of hair, the elegance of fingers and the pattern in the mere trim of a sleeve.
This is art presented in a way that allows the viewer to feast on beauty — and feast deeply. 
Here, the visitor comes face-to-face with Andre Pisano’s marble relief of the Madonna and Child, and the joy on her face and that of Jesus is palpable. 
Each room held pieces that dazzled. Pellegrini’s Immaculate Conception in Silver could just as easily be called Mary, Queen of Heaven. Augustino diDuccio’s Madonna d’Auvillers is a stone relief of extraordinary delicate detail.   
These are pieces that put flesh to the story of Mary. These works invite us to recognize the very realness of Mary and Jesus — fitting contemplation for Advent, Christmas and beyond.  
If there’s a lament, it is that there are not more rooms to address each of those moments of Mary’s life we’ve come to know through the mysteries of the Rosary.
But given the scope of history that is involved, perhaps this will be merely the beginning of an ongoing exhibit that could explore more of the life and meaning of this most humble handmaid of the Lord.  
This is a collection that invites prayer, contemplation and awe. 
Come to see the beauty that is Mary. Come and behold your Mother.  
 Sherry Antonetti writes from Gaithersburg, Maryland.
Mary in the Life of Believers:
Guercino, Madonna of the Nativity
Elisabetta Sirani, The Holy Family with St. Elizabeth and St. John the Baptist
Unknown Artist, Chasuble
Unknown Artist, Dalmatic with embroidered panels showing Mary’s Assumption
Master of Martainville Workshop, Recto: Annunciation and Visitation; Verso: Bird with its young
Embriachi Workshop, Triptych with Madonna and Child and Saints
Unknown Artist, Franconian School, Miraculous Mass of St. Martin of Tours
Rembrandt Harmensz van Rijn, The Death of the Virgin
Unknown Artist, Mother of Mercy
Bernardino Monaldi, Madonna of the Rosary and Saints
Orsola Maddalena Caccia, Mystical Marriage of the Blessed Osanna Andreasi
Sofonisba Anguissola, Self-Portrait at the Easel
Mary as Idea:
Desiderio da Settignano, Madonna and Child
Tino di Camaino, Madonna and Child/Seat of Wisdom
Nicolò Barabino, Faith with Representations of the Arts
Angelo Pellegrini, Immaculate Conception and Symbols of the Evangelists
Unknown Artist, Annunciation with Six Prophets
Raphaël Sadeler, Annunciation with Six Prophets
Gerard David, The Annunciation
Andrea Mantegna, Madonna of the Quarry
Lorenzo di Credi, The Annunciation and Three Stories from Genesis
Agostino di Duccio, Madonna and Child Surrounded by Four Angels
A Singular Life:
Albrecht Dürer, The Birth of the Virgin
Albrecht Dürer, The Annunciation
Albrecht Dürer, The Circumcision
Albrecht Dürer, The Presentation of Christ in the Temple
Albrecht Dürer, Christ Taking Leave from His Mother
Albrecht Dürer, The Assumption and Coronation of the Virgin
Antonio del Pollaiuolo, Visitation
Sassoferrato, Madonna and Child
Master of the Orleans Triptych (?), Nativity  with Annunciation
Limoges Workshop, Nativity
Limoges Workshop, Annunciation
Limoges Workshop, Adoration of the Magi
Simone Peterzano, Holy Family with Infant St. John the Baptist and an Angel
Titian and Workshop, Madonna and Child with St. John the Baptist and Two Saints
Vittore Carpaccio, Marriage of the Virgin
Nardo di Cione, The Virgin Annunciate
Mother of the Crucified:
Giuseppe Maria Mazza, Madonna and Child with Young St. John the Baptist
Guillaume de Marcillat, Deposition and Entombment
Francescuccio Ghissi, The Dead Christ and Angels; Adoration of the Infant Jesus
Orsola Maddalena Caccia, Madonna with the Sleeping Christ Child
Luca della Robbia, Madonna and Child
Jean I Pénicaud, Crucifixion
Maison Samson, Deposition from the Cross and Mourners
Unknown Artist, Chasuble cross embroidered with Pietà, Angels, and Saints
Orsola Maddalena Caccia, Nativity
Sandro Botticelli, Madonna and Child
Master of Sant’Anastasia, Crucifixion
Giorgio Vasari, Crucifixion
Woman and Mother:
Master of the Winking Eyes, Madonna and Child
Orsola Maddalena Caccia, The Birth of St. John the Baptist
Orsola Maddalena Caccia, Madonna and Child with St. Anne
Artemisia Gentileschi, Madonna and Child
Andrea Pisano, Madonna and Child
Elisabetta Sirani, Virgin and Child
Puccio Capanna, Madonna and Child with Annunciation and Female Saints
Federico Barocci, Rest on the Flight into Egypt
Madonna and Child:
Michelangelo Buonarroti, Madonna and Child
Benedetto da Maiano and Bernardo di Stefano Rosselli, Madonna and Child Giving Blessing
Cosmè Tura, attrib., Madonna and Child
Unknown Artist, Rhenish School, Madonna and Child
Luca della Robbia, Madonna and Child
Giovanni Battista Tiepolo, Madonna of the Goldfinch
Cosmè Tura, Madonna and Child in a Garden
Pontormo, Madonna and Child
Orsola Maddalena Caccia, St. Luke the Evangelist in the Studio
Fra Filippo Lippi, Madonna and Child