The most important events in the life of Jesus are usually depicted in art as narrative cycles. The Scriptures provide enough information to sketch the narrative of Jesus’ adult life and ministry. They are, however, rather scarce on Jesus’ childhood, and almost silent on Mary’s life. The exception is the Gospel according to Luke, which dedicates two chapters to the birth and infancy of Christ. Mary is mentioned only eight times in the other three Gospels, and only once in the Acts of the Apostles. This paucity of information is compensated by the many apocryphal writings, especially the “Infancy Gospels,” which provide a wealth of additional stories and picturesque details about both Mary and Jesus. These writings, together with later patristic texts and medieval legends, informed artistic imagination and played a decisive role in elaborating iconographic types.

This exhibition includes several Marian narratives, from the scriptural Annunciation and Visitation to the apocryphal Birth, Dormition and Assumption of the Virgin. Consistent with representations of the Madonna and Child, the Virgin is recognizable in virtue of the standard iconography and attributes, such as her blue mantle and the lily, a symbol of her purity. The Christological narratives are largely from Jesus’ early life, representing him as a child or young adult in a wide variety of physiognomic and stylistic types.

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