Thursday, August 20, 2009

Madonna and Child

Title: Madonna and Child

Artist: Marianne Stokes

Medium: Tempera on panel

Size: 80 x 60cm

Date: 1907

Location: Wolverhampton Museum and Art Gallery

In art, the term “The Madonna” is applied specifically to an artwork in which Mary, with or without the infant Jesus, is the focus and central figure of the picture. Mary and the infant may be surrounded by adoring angels or worshiping saints, however paintings which have a narrative content are usually given a title that reflects the scene.

Such “Goddess worship” was not an original component of the Christian church. Shortly before 400 AD, Epiphanius of Salamis found it necessary to denounce women of Thrace, Arabia and elsewhere for worshiping Mary as an actual goddess. It may have been this zealotry to suppress heresies that led to difficulties for the early church in its uphill struggle eclipsing the worship of Isis. Faced with such difficulty church leaders, such as Cyril of Alexandria, began highlighting divine attributes that could be redirected to Mary, Queen of Heaven. It was during this period that a story began to circulate that Mary had been miraculously carried to Heaven by Jesus and his angels.

The Madonna and Child was one of many works Stokes produced based on spiritual themes. Painted in Ragusa on the Dalmatian coast, overlooking the Adriatic Sea, the model for the Virgin Mary was a local village girl. The costume is representative of a traditional Dalmatian costume from the time, and provides a bright focus for Stokes to express her style as a colorist. In the background Stokes surrounds the Holy mother and child with thorny stems seeming to refer to the future crucifixion of Christ.

Marianne Stokes (1855 Graz – August 1927 London), born Marianne Preindlsberger in the Austrian province of Styria, was an Austrian painter. Financially independent after winning a prize for her talent she traveled to France where she studied under such artists as Dagnan-Bouveret and Courtois. She settled in England after her marriage to Adrian Scott Stokes, the landscape painter. Her interest in biblical themes is typical of the artists of the Pre-Raphaelite movement, a group of artists working in the second half of the nineteenth century.

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