Skip to comments.Vatican plea to uncover Virgin Mary and show her breast-feeding baby Jesus
Posted on 06/30/2008 10:43:44 PM PDT by annalex
By Simon Caldwell
Last updated at 11:09 PM on 23rd June 2008
[...] ...artists later depicted the nursing Mary fully clothed because the Protestant reformers were generally critical of "the carnality and unbecoming nature of many sacred images".
But Miss Scaraffia argued that later depictions had also diminished the Madonna s human side "that touches the hearts and faith of the devout".
Miss Scaraffia said that when the early Christian artists represented the Virgin breast-feeding they had sought to reveal the reality of God's incarnation.
Images of a semi-nude Mary breastfeeding can be traced back to early Christian times and were popular during the Renaissance period of the Middle Ages.
(Excerpt) Read more at dailymail.co.uk ...
Doom, North Cove, Suffolk
Photo:T.Marshall The central portion of the Doom at North Cove, showing Christ in Judgement, with the (bare-breasted) Virgin at the left and John the Baptist to the right, pleading with arms raised in intercession. The spotted mantle, held open to show the wound in Christs side, may be intended for ermine, and the swirling decorative whorls around his legs are probably an attempt to suggest clouds. He sits on a rainbow, and below his feet are four angels with blue wings sounding trumpets - that of the angel at the extreme right is clearest.
Doom, North Cove, Suffolk (St.Edmundsbury & Ipswich) C.14/15
Below the trumpeting angels, the dead, the coffins (they look like stone sarcophagi) of three of them fairly clear, are about to rise. The probable Donor of all the paintings in the church - in other words the patron who paid the artist to make them - is shown quite alone on the opposite wall, resurrected, sitting up in her tomb, and looking at the Judgement taking place across the chancel.
At the right is an enlarged detail of the bare-breasted Virgin, crowned and with a very large halo, reminding her son of her nurturing by her gesture, much like her slightly later counterpart at Ickleton. The stylistic differences between the two are instructive as evidence of the individual personal approaches, treatments, and indeed skills, of different painters.
Opposite the Virgin and below at the left are enlarged details of John the Baptist (possibly John the Evangelist, but this is less likely), and an angel with Instruments of the Passion - the spear at least is here, and possibly the sponge as well. On the right of the photograph, the decorative detail - a grape and vine stem pattern surrounding all the paintings at North Cove - shows well, but it is seen to best effect in the Passion Cycle, particularly the Harrowing of Hell.
Further below and to the right of John, St. Peter, or perhaps an angel, standing at the left, welcomes souls. Two of them at the extreme right (scroll right) seem to be embracing each other.
Below this, further to the right still, and shown below at the right, St. Michael, sword drawn and threateningly raised, drives the damned away. The detail is very faint now, but it is relatively unusual in English wallpainting to see Michael in this role, the job being done usually by devils.
But there is no discernible Mouth of Hell in this Doom, probably because across the aisle on the North Wall is the graphically-painted Harrowing of Hell, part of the Passion Cycle. In a quite narrow space, one Hell was no doubt thought to be enough.
Photo : T.Marshall
The Doom, Ickleton, Cambs. (Ely) C.14 (central area & detail)
Although much of it has been lost and most of the rest is faded, this 14th century Doom (over the chancel arch) has one very unusual feature, namely the Virgin baring her breasts in supplication to her Son (detail, right, below).
This gesture, pagan in origin but found occasionally in Christian art, is extremely rare in the English church, but there is another example of it, probably from around the
same date (but very different in style), in the Doom at North Cove in Suffolk. The gesture might almost have been designed to draw fire from those of an iconoclastic turn of mind, particularly after the Protestant Reformation. In 1570 the Flemish theologian John Molanus had this to say of it:
Many painters show Mary and John the Baptist kneeling beside Our lord at the Last Judgment...But we may not think that at that day the Virgin Mary will kneel for us before the Judge, baring her breast to intercede for sinners. Nor may we think that John the Baptist will fall upon his knees to beg mercy for mankind in the way the painters show. Rather, the blessed Virgin and St. John shall sit beside the supreme Judge as assessors. The mercy which is extended now will have no place then. There will only be strict justice at that day.¹Hard as it is to warm to Molanus, his pronouncement is a telling comment on the magnitude of the Reformation sea-change.
There are other paintings at Ickleton, including the early and high-quality true fresco Passion Cycle already in these pages.
¹J.Molanus, De Historia SS. Imaginum et Picturarum pro vero earum usu contra abusus, Louvain, 1594, Book iv. cap.24. in A. Caiger-Smith, English Medieval Wall Paintings [Bibliography Page], p. 35.
Wall painting was once the national gallery of England. The imprinting of natural colours into moist plaster defied the passage of time. Kempley's colours seem to glow even more vividly when the walls become moist. Churches were entirely coated in these messages, telling stories, recording pilgrimages, terrifying the wicked, saluting St Christopher, the saint of travellers, or just graffiti celebrating life on Earth.The extent of the destruction of English Christian heritage by Protestant vandals boggles the mind. Christians received better treatment from the Turks.
The Reformation whitewashed over most church murals, or over-painted them with "the word" - biblical texts, creeds and commandments. But substantial sets have come to light, the "Sussex school" at Clayton and Hardham, Copford in Essex, Ickleton in Cambridgeshire and the great Doom painting in St Thomas's, Salisbury. While stained glass, sculpture, screens and icons were stolen and smashed, wall paintings slept undisturbed until roused by scholars such as Ernest Tristram and Clive Rouse.
Many of these paintings would be on London pedestals, had some avaricious director been able to prise them from the walls, as they did so much of the stained glass and statuary now in the V&A and elsewhere. The lovely swaying figures of the Brent Eleigh crucifixion in Suffolk might have stepped from a work by Italian painter Cimabue. Norwich St Gregory's George and Dragon would pass muster in an Italian sanctuary. The terrifying Ladder of Salvation in Chaldon, Surrey, is pure Hieronymus Bosch. The Lily Crucifix in Godshill on the Isle of Wight is delicate beyond compare.
Overwhelming these delights is despair at the sheer ragged incompleteness of it all. To study this elusive art is to gaze on mostly a ruin. It is as if every painting in every gallery were a tattered piece of canvas in a broken frame; as if the parish church as the aesthetic climax of English life, offering a narrative of its past, were just a mausoleum.
funny, I don’t think I’ve ever seen her so depicted.
Monty Python would call it, Our Lady of the Naughty Bits. ;-)
In addition to being free of Original Sin, she appears to be free from Gravity.
Hence the Vatican's suggestion.
Thank you for the great gallery of Christian art. I am by education an Art Historian and am continually embarrassed by how little most Christians know about the 2000 years of strong Christian art that exists in the world.
That’s what God made them for.
naturally, but I would have expected to see it in a museum
Of course. We got that.
You are welcome. FR used to have great art threads; I see less of it now. We should do something about that.