Visualizing the Virgin Mary

October 11, 2022–January 8, 2023

At the Getty Center, Los Angeles.

The Virgin and Child, early 1460s Willem Vrelant (Flemish, active 1454-1481) Tempera colors, gold leaf, and ink on parchment 25.6 × 17.3 cm (10 1/6 × 6 13/16 in.) Getty Museum Ms Ludwig IX 8 (83.ML.104), fol.121

Getty Museum presents Visualizing the Virgin Mary, featuring vibrant, illuminated manuscripts depicting stories of the Virgin Mary that attest to her role as one of the most adored figures in the Christian tradition.
Mostly drawn from the Getty’s collection, the exhibition goes on view at the Getty Center Museum from October 11, 2022, through January 8, 2023.

“The exhibition demonstrates the continued artistic fascination with Mary throughout time,” says Timothy Potts, Maria Hummer- Tuttle and Robert Tuttle Director of the Getty Museum. “As Mary was often hailed as the Queen of the Angels, the exhibition’s theme will also resonate with Los Angeles visitors.”

This bilingual (English and Spanish) exhibition highlights the Virgin Mary’s life, acts of miracles, and the interpretation of her image in the Middle Ages. The exhibition also explores the legacy of Marian imagery in the Americas, especially the Virgin of Guadalupe. Visualizing the Virgin Mary is the first Getty exhibition to focus on the Virgin Mary since the 2000 exhibition The Queen of Angels.

“This exhibition will show how fewer than a dozen references to the Virgin in the Bible grew into a myriad of stories and images that celebrate Mary as a personal intercessor, a nursing mother, and a heavenly queen,” says Maeve O’Donnell-Morales, curator of the exhibition and former intern in the Department of Manuscripts at the Getty Museum. “The exhibition will also emphasize the role of artistic creativity in the development of Mary’s image and draw attention to the enduring visual traditions of her likeness from the Middle Ages to today.”

The Seven Sorrows of the Virgin, about 1525- 1530
Simon Bening (Flemish, about 1483-1561) Tempera colors, gold paint, and gold leaf on parchment
16.8 × 11.4 cm (6 5/8 × 4 1/2 in.)
Getty Museum
Ms. Ludwig IX 19 (83.ML.115), fol.251v

The exhibition’s first section, Mary Beyond the Bible, concentrates on how Mary’s biography and image was expanded in the Middle Ages, given the lack of detail used to describe Mary’s life in the Bible. Authors supplemented biblical accounts by creating narratives about her childhood, adulthood, and death. These stories were accompanied by lively and colorful images in illuminated manuscripts that serve as a record of the continuous development of Marian legend from a small number of biblical passages into the focus of widespread reverence.

The Annunciation, about 1240-1250
Unknown artist/maker, German
Tempera colors, gold leaf, and silver leaf on parchment 22.7 × 15.7 cm (8 15/16 × 6 3/16 in.)
Getty Museum
Ms. Ludwig VIII 2 (83.MK.93), fol.10

Miraculous Mary focuses on the popular devotion to Mary, which increased during the course of the medieval period and continued to find expression in all forms of art —from music and manuscripts to sculpture and textile. The stories of miracles performed by Mary and belief in her role as intercessor for the faithful helped to secure and spread her growing importance. The exhibition features numerous images of Marian miracles and stories of personal intervention.

Virgin of Guadalupe, 1779
Sebastián Salcedo (Mexican, active 1779-1783)
Oil on copper
Unframed: 64.8 × 49.8 cm (25 1/2 × 19 5/8 in.)
Denver Art Museum. Funds contributed by Mr. and Mrs. George G. Anderman and an Anonymous Donor, 1976.56

Finally, Mary in the Americas showcases how fascination with the Virgin Mary and her image persisted long after the Middle Ages, arriving in the Americas in the 16th century with Spanish colonization. Although imagery of Our Lady of Guadalupe is linked with medieval traditions, it has been reinterpreted for each new generation, becoming an icon associated with cultural and social issues in addition to its religious role. Whether serving as divine intercessor, consoling mother, national symbol of unification, emblem of colonial oppression, or feminist role model, this figure has been continually reimagined by artists to create different meanings for viewers across time.

This last portion of the exhibition features three loans that honor the Virgin of Guadalupe’s significance in Hispanic and Latin cultures. Mexican artist Sebastián Salcedo’s Virgén de Guadalupe, from theDenver Art Museum, is a panel from the 1700s featuring the Virgin of Guadalupe surrounded by scenes showing her miraculous appearances to Juan Diego near Mexico City in 1531. La Virgen de Guadalupe Defendiendo los Derechos de los Xicanos, a self-portrait by Ester Hernández, a San Francisco-based Chicana artist, deconstructs the Virgin of Guadalupe to create a new meaning of the historic figure for contemporary women. Mexican photographer Graciela Iturbide’s La frontera, Tijuana, México, features a man with a Virgin of Guadalupe on his back facing the Tijuana border, noting her well-known image provides comfort to those undertaking the dangerous and arduous journey to cross into the United States.

La frontera, Tijuana, México, 1990 Graciela Iturbide (Mexican, born 1942) Gelatin silver print
Image: 31.8 × 22.5 cm (12 1/2 × 8 7/8 in.) Getty Museum
© Graciela Iturbide 2007.38.2

Visualizing the Virgin Mary is curated by Maeve O’Donnell-Morales, a former graduate intern at the Getty Museum, with assistance from Elizabeth Morrison, senior curator of Manuscripts at the Getty Museum.

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