I’m blessed to live only a few miles from the Getty Center, a world-class museum and research and conservation institute. The Getty’s holdings are so immense that I typically limit my visits to one particular area during my regular visits. Now through February, the Getty is featuring a special exhibit they call “Visualizing the Virgin Mary”. For the next few weeks, I will be sharing one item from the show per post. I’ll offer a few thoughts on how each work of art resonates with me. I invite you to share your thoughts and impressions. The official site for the exhibition shows professional images of several of the works of art. The images shared here are my own. Scroll through the images to see them in detail.
Upon entering “Visualizing the Virgin Mary”, the viewer is met by dimmed lighting and tones of blue. Signage informs those entering that “according to Christian belief, a maiden named Mary gave birth to the son of God, Jesus Christ.” What follows is a concise but fascinating look at Marian depictions in art from the middle ages to the Modern Era.
The centerpiece of the exhibit is the Virgin of Guadalupe, by Sebastian Salcedo hung directly over a display case bearing the Arenberg Hours open to a page illuminated with The Virgin and Child by Willem Vrelant. If you look closely at my image of this beautifully adorned prayer book, you’ll see what caught my eye: Our Lady reflected in the glass of the display case. The accompanying documentation for the two works noted the similarities of Salcedo’s work, painted in 1779, to that of Vrelant’s Mary, painted in the 1460s. Art commentary below the coupled works notes the blue hues and prominent stars, but my eyes were transfixed by that reflection.
I am not an art connoisseur. When I visit a gallery, I do my best to simply stand before the images and let them speak into my heart. This particular exhibit seems to lead from the perspective that folks have a devotion to Mary, despite the lack of biblical or historical evidence to prove why we believe what we do about her.
I doubt I was alone in my gut reaction to that golden glow. The people in this particular nook of the Getty (it’s just one small room of art), seemed to approach the various works with hushed tones, almost as if they were in the stillness of a chapel. I waited my turn to approach this set of paintings behind a man my age who dabbed a tear from his eye as he moved away from the Virgins. His emotions touched my heart. “He loves her like I do,” I thought.Join @LisaHendey for a Visit to the Visualizing the Virgin Mary exhibit at @gettymuseum – Day 1. Click To Tweet
I look forward to sharing additional works from the exhibit in the weeks ahead. In the meantime, I’ll open the comments here so that you can share what you feel when you see these works or tell me about your favorite depiction of Mary in art.