The Virginity of the Virgin. A Study in Marian Iconography.


This book deals with aspects of Marian iconography related to the topic of virginity. In discussing familiar subjects like the Annunciation, the Marriage (or Betrothal) of the Virgin, the Birth of Christ, the Immaculate Conception, the Madonna del Parto and Maria Lactans, the book pays particular attention to the aspects that not only help recount the stories of the Gospels but also emphasise specific points of view regarding Mary’s perpetual virginity. Medieval man often sought concrete explanations to mysteries of faith like the Virgin Birth. For example, some people thought that Mary could maintain her intactness by conceiving and become pregnant through her ear. When ecclesiastical authorities declared that Mary, like Jesus, was born without sin, there was widespread conjecture, including among painters, about how this had occurred. The book discusses works of European art from the Paleochristian period to the Counter- Reformation, with particular emphasis on the period between the mid-12th century and the end of the 14th century. The book focuses on how ideas about Mary’s virginity were expressed through the representation of scenes from the Gospels or, indirectly, through allegories like the Hortus conclusus or the Porta caeli. The book seeks to delineate the processes of change behind the imagery, with special focus on periods of rapid cultural transformation, like that of the 12th century. During this time, metaphors associated with Mary’s sexual and marital status became laden with new connotations that altered their original meaning, shifting the attention away from the virtue of abstinence toward ‘intactness’ and virginity as values in themselves