A few weeks ago I had a conversation on the phone with a love artist intern of mine from many years ago. She had come to live in the crooked little falling down house at the bottom of Columbia Street, the house that I never really lived in, but invited many, many other people to live in & help me keep the true love project on track: Kara, Crystal, Emily, Giorgio . . . .
Kara is now studying for her Phd in Medieval Art. I was talking to her about the blue in the various paintings of Madonna & Child & I asked her if she believed (as I did) that people at that time actually saw things like halos & heavenly visitations. She was not sure, but she did believe that vision is cultural & what one can *see* is connected to what one *knows* to be true.
She brought up a trend, at that time, where patrons had themselves painted in the company &/or supplication of the Madonna or a saint of their choosing. We discussed the possibility that they actually believed that they had a personal relationship with these deities, more real & beyond one of mere prayer or contemplation.
This reminded me of when I was a child & believed that God visited me nightly, entering through the tiny window at the foot of my bed. This visitation was usually, almost always, to remind me that I was special & that there was a certain opportunity waiting for me that would make all the hardship & (seeming) invisibility worth it.
It is hard to remember when exactly these seemingly delusional visitations became very, very real for me.
"What makes this image from the Hours of Mary of Burgundy, dated to the 1480s, so mysterious and compelling is that she is clearly depicted in the foreground with her prayerbook, and in the background we see the Virgin Mary and several women in supplication to her. The woman in the background is sometimes thought to be Mary of Burgundy - that perhaps she is dreaming or imagining her audience with the Divine Mother. Others have suggested that it is a portrait of her own mother in supplication to the Virgin Mary, and that adds another layer of maternal remembrance and devotion. Scholars really do not know who the background figures are meant to represent.
I think it is interesting that the Virgin Mary is being guarded, in a way, by the angels that sit around her - almost as a buffer between herself and her human supplicants. A great deal has been written about this image and the book it comes from. It is one of the finest and most well-preserved examples of late-Medieval/early-Modern Burgundian book illumination. Several of the scenes employ a deep, layering of space like this one - which was unusual for earlier medieval book illustration and would have appeared to be fairly innovative. Gros bisous, Kara"