Virgin of Mercy

Virgin of Mercy
Sano di Pietro, 15th century; the Virgin shelters a group of nuns, including two novices with uncovered heads.
The "Ravensburger Schutzmantelmadonna", painted limewood of ca 1480, now in a Berlin museum

The Virgin of Mercy is a subject in Catholic art, showing a group of people sheltering for protection under the outspread cloak of the Virgin Mary. It was especially popular in Italy from the 13th to 16th centuries, often as a specialised form of votive portrait, and is also found in other countries and later art, especially Catalonia and Latin America. In Italian it is known as the Madonna della Misericordia (Madonna of Mercy), in German as the Schutzmantelmadonna (Sheltering-cloak Madonna), and in French as the Vièrge au Manteau or Vierge de Miséricorde (Virgin with a cloak or Virgin of Mercy).

Contents

Image and origins

Usually the Virgin is standing alone, though if angels hold up the cloak she is free to hold the infant Christ. The people sheltered normally kneel, and are of necessity shown usually at a much smaller scale. These may represent all members of Christian society, with royal crowns, mitres and a Papal tiara in the front rows, or represent the local population. The subject was often commissioned by specific groups such as families, confraternities, guilds or convents or abbeys, and then the figures represent these specific groups, as shown by their dress, or by the 15th century individual portraits. Sometimes arrows rain down from above, which the cloak prevents from reaching the people.[1]

Probably the oldest version known is a small panel by Duccio of ca. 1280, with three Franciscan friars under the cloak[2] Here the Virgin sits, only one side of the cloak is extended, and the Virgin holds her child on her knee with her other hand.

The immediate inspiration of the iconography comes from a vision reported in the Dialogus Miraculorum of the Cistercian Caesar of Heisterbach which circulated widely from about 1230.[3] Beyond that, the origins of the image may relate to rituals and a vision or miracle connected with a famous icon in the Blachernae Church in Constantinople.[4] This gave rise in Russian Orthodoxy to the Pokrov icons, although the image is not found in Byzantine art. In these the thought is similar, but the image less literal - the veil with which the Virgin protects mankind is small and just held in her hands.[5] The Western image is also found in some Eastern Orthodox icons, one of a number of Western iconographic features that infiltrated Orthodox art, whether in Cyprus under the Crusaders[6] or 16th century Eastern Europe.

Usually the image, whether in sculpture or painting, stands by itself, but in the most famous example, the Madonna della Misericordia altarpiece in Sansepolcro by Piero della Francesca, of 1445-62, the subject is the central panel of a large altarpiece, with a smaller Crucifixion above it, and many other panels. In the Spanish The Virgin of the Navigators of the 1530s, where those sheltered are a group connected with the Spanish voyages to the New World, including American indigenous peoples, the group are shown over a panorama of ships at rest in a harbour.

In Germany an almost identical image was used featuring Saint Ursula, usually holding her attribute of an arrow to avoid confusion.[7]

The image came in for special derision from Martin Luther, who compared it to "a hen with her chicks".[8]

Other uses

The term "Virgin of Mercy" is found in a number of other contexts not directly related to the image. It is a common translation of the Eleusa type of icon of the Virgin and Child. The Virgin of Mercy is patron saint of Barcelona, celebrated in the week-long La Mercè festival each year, but in this role is not especially associated with this type of image. The Order of the Blessed Virgin Mary of Mercy, founded, also in Barcelona, in 1218 by Saint Peter Nolasco, has used the image but is not particularly associated with it.

In Santería, the Virgin of Mercy is syncretized with Obatala.

Gallery

See also

Notes

  1. ^ Hall, 222
  2. ^ In the Pinacoteca in Siena. An Armenian miniature of ca. 1274 also shows a variant of the motif. Miniature Painting in the Armenian Kingdom of Cilicia from the Twelfth to the Fourteenth Century, Sirarpie Der Nersessian, Sylvia Agémian, Annemarie Weyl Carr, Dumbarton Oaks, p. 159, 1993, ISBN 0884022021. A South German chalice may also be older, see Vasilake, 307, note 17.
  3. ^ Imagining Childhood: Themes in the Imagery of Childhood, Erika Langmuir, p.237, note 56, Yale University Press, 2006, ISBN 0300101317
  4. ^ Vasilake, 308
  5. ^ Neil K. Moran; Singers in Late Byzantine and Slavonic Painting, p.126ff, BRILL, 1986, ISBN 9004078096
  6. ^ Vasilake, 307ff; 17th century Ukrainian example
  7. ^ See the Commons category note for three examples
  8. ^ Hall, 305

References



Wikimedia Foundation. 2010.

Look at other dictionaries:

  • Mercy — For other uses, see Mercy (disambiguation). Merciful redirects here. For people called the Merciful , see List of people known as the Merciful. Mercy Truth are shown together in a 13th century representation of …   Wikipedia

  • Mercy Arms — Pays d’origine Sydney,  Australie Genre musical Indie rock shoegaze Années d activité …   Wikipédia en Français

  • Mercy Arms — Background information Origin Sydney, Australia Genres Rock n Roll …   Wikipedia

  • Virgin Roster — Infobox VG title = Virgin Roster Shukketsubo developer = JPZyX publisher = NA G Collections designer = series = engine = released = flagicon|Japan May 31, 2002 flagicon|United States December 19, 2003 genre = Eroge, Visual novel modes = Single… …   Wikipedia

  • Blessed Virgin Mary (Roman Catholic) — Blessed Virgin Mary The Catechism of the Catholic Church states: The Church s devotion to the Blessed Virgin is intrinsic to Christian worship. [1] Mother of …   Wikipedia

  • Order of the Blessed Virgin Mary of Mercy — Our Lady of Mercy From the Generalate of the Mercedarian Order …   Wikipedia

  • Fathers of Mercy — Badge of the Order Motto Misericordia motus est He was moved with mercy (Luke 15:20) Member Data Postulants: Novices: Brothers: Deacons: Priests …   Wikipedia

  • Patronage of the Blessed Virgin Mary — A list of Patronage of the Blessed Virgin Mary by occupations and activities, dioceses and other places:Occupations and activitiesThe Blessed Virgin Mary may be taken as a patroness of any good activity; indeed, she is cited as the patroness of… …   Wikipedia

  • Devotion to the Blessed Virgin —     Devotion to the Blessed Virgin Mary     † Catholic Encyclopedia ► Devotion to the Blessed Virgin Mary     Down to the Council of Nicaea     Devotion to Our Blessed Lady in its ultimate analysis must be regarded as a practical application of… …   Catholic encyclopedia

  • Devotion to the Blessed Virgin Mary —     Devotion to the Blessed Virgin Mary     † Catholic Encyclopedia ► Devotion to the Blessed Virgin Mary     Down to the Council of Nicaea     Devotion to Our Blessed Lady in its ultimate analysis must be regarded as a practical application of… …   Catholic encyclopedia

Share the article and excerpts

Direct link
Do a right-click on the link above
and select “Copy Link”