- Virgin Mary
- The mother of God whom Catholic doctrine declares she conceived without sin. Mary is the most highly regarded of all saints. She was the daughter of Joachim and Anne who conceived her in old age, and was betrothed to Joseph when the angel Gabriel announced to her that she would conceive the Christ Child through the Holy Spirit. The Annunciation is one of the most popular subjects in religious art, with versions by Simone Martini (1333; Uffizi, Florence), Rogier van der Weyden (c. 1435; Paris, Louvre), and Tintoretto (1583-1587; Venice, Scuola di San Rocco) serving as examples. Mary visited her cousin Elizabeth to tell her the good news and found out that Elizabeth too was with child; her son, also conceived in old age, was St. John the Baptist. Federico Barocci depicted this scene (1586) for the Visitation Chapel at the Chiesa Nuova, Rome. Once Christ was born, Joseph took the Holy Family to Egypt to escape persecution from Herod who was afraid that the child would take his throne. The Flight into Egypt is the topic of Annibale Carracci's landscape in the Galleria Doria-Pamphili (1603) and one of the scenes in Melchior Broederlam's altarpiece for the Carthusian Monastery of Dijon (1394-1399). Mary was present at the marriage at Cana where Christ performed his first miracle, a scene depicted by Paolo Veronese in 1563 in the refectory of San Giorgio Maggiore, Venice. At the Crucifixion, Christ placed Mary in St. John's care. She was present when the apostles began to speak in tongues, the topic of El Greco's Pentecost (c. 1608-1610; Madrid, Prado). In turn, the apostles were present when she fell into her Dormition, as depicted by Hugo van der Goes in c. 1481 (Bruges, Groeningemuseum). Her ascent into heaven finally became Catholic dogma in 1950, but had been a major subject in Renaissance and Baroque art, with Titian's Assumption (1516-1518; Venice, Santa Maria dei Frari) providing one of the most superb examples. The concept of the Virgin's Immaculate Conception was declared dogma in 1854, though it had already gained tremendous popularity in the Renaissance and Baroque eras, particularly in Spain where the subject was often depicted. Diego Velázquez' rendition of 1619 (London, National Gallery) provides one of many examples. The most popular depiction of Mary is as an iconic figure carrying the Christ Child, in the Virgin and Child by Simone Martini (c. 1325; Boston, Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum) and Giovanni Bellini's Madonna and Child (late 1480s; New York, Metropolitan Museum) providing two examples.See also Marriage of the Virgin.
Historical dictionary of Renaissance art. Lilian H. Zirpolo. 2008.