Motifs in Artwork of the Immaculate Conception

You weren't in the 17th-century artists' club until you took a crack at painting the Virgin Mary as the Immaculate Conception. There wasn't any universally accepted way to portray this abstract theme in the art world until the Spaniard, Francesco Pacheco (1564-1644), wrote down some ground rules on how artists should portray the Immaculate Conception — here are a few: 

1. The sun surrounds a 12-year-old maiden

2. A crescent moon rests under her feet

3. Twelve stars surround her head 

4. She wears a white tunic and blue mantle

Sound familiar? Yep, this description of the Virgin Mary comes mostly from the book of the Apocalypse: 

And a great sign appeared in heaven: A woman clothed with the sun, and the moon under her feet, and on her head a crown of twelve stars. Revelation 12:1

Many artists followed the Pacheco guidelines in varying degrees. You'll notice that most are pretty good about painting in a moon, a radiating sun and a crown of twelve stars. The most widely used additions are the Virgin trampling Satan (represented as a dragon), and happy-little-floating-around cherubs decorating the space and holding flowers (this guy went all out).

 

Our Lady Standing on the Moon

By Anton Raphael Mengs

 

Mother Mary as the Immaculate Conception

 Jose Antolinez

 

Virgin of Immaculate Conception

Jose Antolinez

 

Immaculate Conception

17th Century Anonymous

 

Our Lady with Crown of Stars

Claudio Coello

 

Immaculate Conception of Our Lady

Diego Velazquez

 

Virgin Mary and God the Father

Francisco Goya

 

God the Father and Our Lady

Mariano Salvador Maella

 

Mother Mary in the Clouds

Esteban Murillo

 

Virgin Mary and Crescent Moon

Esteban Murillo

 

Our Lady and Cherubs

Esteban Murillo

 

One of Murillo's Most Popular Images

Esteban Murillo

 

Murillo's Best Immaculate Conception Painting

Esteban Murillo

 

Our Lady on the Moon

Esteban Murillo

 

Guido Reni

 

Sun Shining Behind Virgin Mary

Jose Ribera

 

Cherubs Surrounding Virgin Mary

Francisco Rizi

 

Mother Mary Trampling Satan

Peter Paul Rubens

 

Holy Ghost and Virgin Mary

Giovanni Battista Tiepolo

 

Our Lady with Folded Hands

Francisco de Zurbaran

 

Mother Mary in Clouds

Francisco de Zurbaran

 

 

 

 


Patrick Werick
Patrick Werick

Author



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