Sunday, October 21, 2012

The Testament of Mary

She is the most famous mother in history, yet her story is unknown. A new novel voices the grief-filled thoughts of Mary, as she pieces together the events that led to the death of her son, Jesus. Its writer, Colm Tóibín, describes the origins of the book for the Guardian.

From the piece...

The painting of the crucifixion here is more than 12 metres wide. Its size means that the idea of transcendental space soaring towards the heavens above is replaced with the vast, long, busy world around. Tintoretto shows that while Jesus hung on a cross until he died, many other things happened too. If the sound of the Titian is of angels' unearthly voices, this painting by Tintoretto is filled with the brutal noise of the world.

I think the gap between these two paintings made me wonder about how the imploring, powerless figure of Mary at the foot of the cross as her son was crucified could have become, in Catholic doctrine and Italian painting, the queen of heaven. The more time I spent looking at paintings in Venice the more I came to feel that the story of her transformation fulfilled a pictorial need, or a storyteller's need, as much as it did anything else.

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