May 16, 2011

Birth of Mary

I promised I would dedicate much of the month of May to art work depicting the Blessed Mother. So, even though I have already presented a few pieces I thought I would look at Our Lady in chronological order. The above fresco is of the Birth of Mary and was painted by Giotto.  He was an Italian artist of the late 13th early 14th Centuries.  He is known for making the transition from Byzantine and Middle Age art to the early Renaissance.  He is one of the first artists to give his figures a more realistic look and put them in natural poses. He also used colors that had not been used before. In this fresco, he depicts the mid-wives wrapping the infant Mary in swaddling clothes (pictured on the floor by the bed) and then presenting the child to her mother Anne.  The presentation of two figures of the same subject in the same painting looks odd, but was fairly common in the Middle Ages.

What is really interesting about this subject, the birth of Mary, is that it is not Scriptural.  The account of the birth is found in the Protoevangelium of James, an apocryphal gospel, yet it found its way into Catholic and Orthodox tradition, and is attested to from the 4th Century on. The birth of Mary is celebrated on September 8th.

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