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
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).
By Anton Raphael Mengs
17th Century Anonymous
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