Here are the Most Beautiful Images of Your Blessed Mother
Mary, the Mother of God can be thought of in many different ways. We can think of her presence in different moments in the life of Christ as written in the Bible. In addition, we can reflect on the meanings of her many titles. Each title points us to a different aspect of Mary. For example, Mary as Our Lady of Lourdes offers us a chance to focus on the Marian apparitions to St. Bernadette and the messages she gave to St. Bernadette. Artists, similarly interpret Mary in their paintings either in terms of the events of the Bible or some aspect of Our Blessed Mother they find inspiring. The rest of this article is dedicated to the inspiration artists have found in Mary over the centuries.
1. Our Lady of Guadalupe
The image is said to be a miracle rather than the work of any particular artist.What can be said about this miracle of an image? It is a manifestation of the power and love of God. Every part of it has meaning and significance, including the stars of Mary’s clothing. They share an arrangement of real constellations in the sky. Mary’s apparition to Jaun Diego, a miracle in itself, paved the way for many conversations in Mexico and the America’s at the time. Her apparitions allowed God to reach those he had not before. The style of the image and how Mary is represented is a gift left behind by God for us all to contemplate on. It is a gift that continues to reach hearts and give comfort that might not be possible otherwise.
2. Our Lady of Undoer of Knots
Our Lady Undoer of Knots is a less known title of Mary that has recently gotten more recognition since Pope Francis became the pontiff. She is ascribed with undoing the hardest knots that keep man in bondage. The painting shows Mary accomplishing just that. She is undoing a knot with the help of angels. Schmidtner creates an image where one is transported to Heaven and is witnessing how Mary helps those souls still on Earth. It is magnificent.
3. The Annunciation
More than any other painting of the Annunciation, Henry O. Tanner’s surprised me the most when I first saw it. Never before had I seen the Angel Gabriel depicted as light instead of in the form of the angel. The form of Gabriel becomes irrelevant when you look at Mary. She is looking to the light and in that moment the viewer becomes a spectator in the room. You are not a far off spectator, but you are there watching something mysterious, inexplicable occur. You are watching something you may not fully understand. Gabriel being depicted as light highlights the mystery of our faith. Mary highlights that mysteries are not a barrier to assenting the truth. It is not easily explainable or known merely through reason. Our faith requires us to accept that which we cannot explain.
4. The Visitation
Henry O. Tanner was not as concerned with painting every line and feature of his subjects realistically. The freedom from the rigidity of realism allows him to bring out other focuses in his work. Such is true as in the case The Visitation. Mary is a little blurry in the background as she greets Elizabeth. You almost miss her as your eye is drawn to Elizabeth as a focal point. Elizabeth is seen in the instant she first sees her cousin. The joy and happiness are all there. Elizabeth’s reaction forces us to look and see the cause of it. We do not have to look far to find Mary at the door. There is Mary standing with open arms. An embrace between the cousins seems inevitable and that they are only a moment a way from moving towards one another. Instead of showing their embrace there is something striking and beautiful about this small moment between Mary and Elizabeth, both mothers to be.
5. Adoration of the Shepherds
Dutch painters have always captured my imagination with the way they play with light and dark colors. Gerard van Honthorst’s Adoration of the Shepherds is no different. With his use of dark colors he is able to create the effect of Christ glowing and the light radiating out touching all surrounding Him. Christ as the source of light in the painting thematically matches up with the lessons and truths held dearly by our faith. As Christ is the source of heavenly light in this painting He is the source of our redemption and of our lives. “I am the way, the Truth, and the Life. No one comes to the Father except through me.” John 14:6
6. Adoration of the Magi
Gold is a major color in this painting of the Epiphany by Gentile da Fabriano. The gold is not misplaced as the Magi honor the newborn Christ in the arms of Mary. There is majesty about the painting. Kings bow down to Christ as if He were on a throne instead of in His mother’s lap. Mary while a small element in the painting plays a pivotal role. She is supporting Christ in His mission before Christ can do it Himself. She is not hiding the baby away or putting His light under a bushel. She is allowing Him to be honored and shows that even after giving birth to Christ her participation in the salvation of man is not over. She is still saying yes to God with an open heart.
7. Our Mother of Perpetual Help
Our Lady of Perpetual Help is a title of the Blessed Mother that reminds us that we can all fly to Mary in prayer when we are in great need or in general. Her help is perpetual as is her love for us. While the creator of this painting is unknown, its beauty is unmistakable. The subjects are not quite is the correct portion as you can see by looking at Christ whose appearance is that of young boy but is the size of an infant. Despite that, the painter adds a heavenly, regal quality to the Blessed Mother and Christ with shimmering gold. The striking colors also add to the image making one unable to look away.
8. Madonna and Saint Anne
Da Vinici's painting The Madonna and Saint Anne shows three generations of a family. The child is playing, as the mother looks after Him and the Grandmother with a delighted countenance watches. This is no ordinary family, the child is Christ, the mother is Mary, and the Grandmother is St. Anne. While they are a very special family they are still a family nonetheless. Their days are full of warm, tender moments just like all other families. Leonardo Da Vinci gives Mary’s expression a glint that all children have seen in their mother’s eye. Even in the Holy Family there is a universality that is found in the natural relationships between mother, child, and other close kin.
9. Pieta (Our Lady of Sorrows)
Our Lady of Sorrows is a title of Mary that never ceases to capture the imagination and really helps shed some light on the Passion of Our Lord. The illumination is how those around Christ are reacting to the events of the Crucifixion. His suffering and death are not isolated events. His loved ones were deeply impacted, no one more than His Mother. From the moment of His conception she loved Him with a Mother’s love. Even though she watched His suffering with the knowledge that Christ’s death would save humanity, her heart as a mother was still in agony. Her agony is captured by William-Adolphe Bouguereau with dignity, beauty, and truth.
10. Madonna of Lilies
The power of William-Adolphe Bouguereau’s Madonna of the Lilies is in the eyes of his subjects. Christ looks straight out undaunted, unabashed. As the Son of God, his confident gaze is not disturbing rather comforting. Even as a young boy his age does not change who is and the reason he came to Earth, to save us from our sins. Contrasting a young Christ is his Mother. Mary is not looking straight out. You cannot even see her eyes. Her gaze is directed down. There is a humility and prayerfulness that strikes one. Her gaze or lack there of indicates an understanding of the identity of son and a deferential respect. She is not scared or timid but rather she is reverent.
11. Our Lady of Good Counsel
Here is another painting of Our Lady of Perpetual Help, sometimes called Our Lady of Good Counsel. This interpretation is a little different. In paintings it is amazing how the same subject can be interpreted differently based on technique, colors, and insight of the painter. Here Sarullo paints Our Lady of Perpetual Help with the utmost tenderness. The tenderness coexists between the Blessed Mother and Christ. Her relationship to her son is at the core of why we run to Mary for help. Her closeness to her son is an intimacy no other saint shares and it allows her to beseech on our behalf in a way no other saint can. She can beseech as a mother. Her son, out of love for His mother cannot say no.
12. The Heart of Mary
Leopold Kupelwieser’s Mary is serene. Her face shows a woman not troubled but at peace. That peace is indicative of her heart, a heart united faithfully and wholly to God. Her heart is not troubled the same way as a soul stained by original sin. Her heart is not limited by sin and her peace is derived from her total trust in God’s love and providence for her and all of humanity.
Leonardo Da Vinci brings to life a crucial moment in salvation history using Renaissance techniques. The Annunciation may have been painted before but Da Vinci approaches it using perspective and correct proportion allowing the figures to exist realistically. He gives them a vitality missed in art in the Medieval Period. The lifelike quality draws you into the painting and invites you to take seriously the conversation of Angel Gabriel and Mary.
14. Madonna of the Chair
In Raphael Sanzio's work here, the Blessed Mother is embracing our Lord as John the Baptiste looks on. If you look in the corner you see that John the Baptiste’s hands are clasped together n a way showing he is praying. If he is not praying he is at the very least showing respect and reverence. He is looking up at Mary as she embraces Christ. In doing so he teaches us who we should look up.
15. Sistine Madonna
The Sistine Madonna was one of the last paintings of the famous Renaissance artist, Raphael. Nevertheless, it is a strikingly beautiful rendition of our Blessed Mother. Mary holds Christ as she stands on clouds and is surrounded by Saint Sixtus II, Saint Barbara, and angels. Raphael gives us an opportunity to be memorized by Mary’s beauty and to appreciate her as the Blessed the Blessed Mother.