The Mary who looks right at you

There are some images of Mary that are just hard to forget.  They’re especially beautiful, or striking, or they resonate in some emotional way that is difficult to explain.  For me, this is one of those pictures.

It’s the work of the Austrian artist Marianne Stokes, who painted it in 1907-1908.  The costume is the traditional dress of Dalmatia, which a region on the Adriatic Sea (yes, I had to look this up.  Oh, by the way, it is where the dogs come from.)  Stokes used a local girl as a model, and, according to this museum website,  the thorny bushes in the back foreshadow Christ’s Passion.

Isn’t it gorgeous?  And it’s more than gorgeous, too, I think.  Something in Mary’s gaze is very moving to me.  Maybe it’s because so many traditional images of Mary show her with downcast eyes, looking humble.  I like how she looks right at you, meeting your eyes: she seems very confident.  At the same time, there’ s a rather dreamy, introspective quality to her expression that just gives it all the more complexity and depth.  And if there’s one thing that I’ve learned about Mary over the past several years, it’s that she’s a lot deeper and more complex than I ever used to think.

Madonna and Child by Marianne Stokes

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