HRS. IAMESON'S LEGENDS OF THE MADONNA.*
THIS is a seasonable book ; but in a critical point of view The Legends of the Madonna are not equal to the previous volumes of the series. The subject has not the variety of the Monastic Orders, or the Stories of the Saints and Fathers ; neither does it pos- sess so much attraction. The history of the different classes of monks and friars involved a variety of solid, information, and there was often biography in that of the Saints and Fathers ; but the really authenticated facts in the life of the Virgin Mary are few, the traditional additions not many. Hence a consider- able sameness in the literature of the present volume : but there is perhaps a deeper source of inferiority. Although to the Protest- ant mind Mary is not surrounded with the divine character which the B.omish theology imparts to her, great reverence is attached to her name. The singular speculations, slightly as Mrs. Jameson points to them, into which heresy may have forced orthodoxy-to venture, and the legendary additions to the incidents of her life that are received by the Romish Church, are at least distasteful to Protestants. The idle attempts to depict her domestic life even
• Legends of the Madonna as represented in the Fine Arts; forming the Third Series of Sacred and Legendary Art. By Mrs. Jameson. Illustrated by DralfingP. and Wood-cuts. Published by Longman and Co.
in a dramatic manner by permitted if not sanctioned legends, and the all but equality claimed for her with the persons of the Trinity, is offensive. Grotesque or undesignedly comic) legends of men and women, whose claims at the very best are only those of superior virtue, may raise a smile without offence; but the life of the Virgin Mary does not permit any light feeling, and is beat left in the same obscurity as the Evangelists left it.
As a history of art, which is Mrs. Jameson's primary object, the legends connected with the Madonna are of snore importance from the very Mariolatiy of the Romish Church. Mary's image takes precedence of all the Apostles and Saints, perhaps of Christ him- self. From an age anterior to some of the Fathers and to all the monastic orders, she was an object of ecclesiastical representation. Her youth, her assumed beauty, the mixture of the elevated des- tiny, the feminine nature, and the divine character of Mary Mother, stimulated while it refined the Southern imagination. Every artist of name from the gross Fleming to the severe Flo- rentine struggled to produce a Madonna worthy of his fame and of his faith. Pictorial histories of her life, and pictures of its most striking incidents, were everywhere, from the revival of art under Ciutabue, till its final decline in the last century. The artistical story of Mary is the history of art from its decline with the decline of the Empire, till its second decay more than a thousand years afterwards, within the traditions of our times. Even now the revival of the Madonna as a subject is attempted, but will scarcely succeed. The age wants faith, and if it did not the artist must, in his facts if not in his creed.
2is an artistical account, whether historical or illustrative, the book is entitled to great praise. The various symbols distinctive of the Madonna are clearly*enumerated ; her proper treatment ac- cording to the incident of her life that is to be illustrated, and whether the subject is religious or historical, spiritual or domestic, is enforced from authority ; in addition to the descriptively cri- tical accounts, many engravings and more numerous wood-cuts express to the eye the progress of art and, the treatment adopted by the greatest artists, if the beauty and expression of the counte- nance sometimes escapes from the smallness of the scale. Neither is the literary portion uninteresting in the more legitimate part, which relates to the history of the Virgin Mary as a subject of art. The research of Mrs. jameson is probably not original; but she has chosen her authorities judiciously, read carefully, and se- lected skilfully. The first cera of the worship of the Virgin, as well as of image-worship, is probably unknown ; for the first notice only proves existence, not origin. The worship of the Virgin, and of Saints, had their beginning in the Pagan Venus and other deities, and were perhaps blended -with Christian practice at a ve arly period in certain localities. The first half of the fifth c
formed an important zera in art, from attaching a symbolical orthodoxy to the Virgin and Child.
"The condemnation of Nestorius by the Council of Ephesus, in the year 431, forms a most important epoch in the history of religious art. I have given further on a sketch of this celebrated schism, and ite immediate and progressive results. It may be thus summed up here. The Nestorians maintained, that in Christ the two natures of God and man remained sepa- rate, and that Mary, his human mother, was parent of the man, but not of the God ; consequently, the title which during the previous century had been popularly applied to her, Theotokos ' (Mother of God), was improper and profane. The party opposed to Nestorius, the Monophysitee, maintained that in Christ the divine and human were blended in one incarnate nature, and that consequently Mary was indeed the Mother of God. By the decree of the first Council of Ephesus, Nestorius and his party were condemned as heretics; and henceforth the representation of that beautiful group, since popularly known as the Madonna and Child,' became the expression of the orthodox faith. Every one who wished to prove his hatred of the arch- heretic exhibited the image of the maternal Virgin holding in her arms the infant Godhead, either in his house as a picture, or embroidered on his gar- ments, or on his furniture, on his personal ornaments—in short, wherever it could be introduced. It is worth remarking, that Cyril, who was so influen- tial in fixing the orthodox group, had passed the greater part of his life in Egypt, and must have been familiar with the Egyptian type of Isis nursing Horns. Nor, as I conceive, is there any irreverence in supposing that a time- honoured intelligible symbol should be chosen to embody and formalize a creed. For it must be remembered that the group of the Mother and Child was not at first a representation, but merely a theological symbol set up in the orthodox churches, and adopted by the orthodox Christians."
This is a neat summary of a curious subject, the likeness of the Virgi• " t is just after the Council of Ephesus that history first makes mention of a supposed authentic portrait of the Virgin Mary. The Empress Eudoeia, when travelling in the Holy Land, sent home such a picture of the Virgin holding the Child to her sister-in-law Pulcheria, who placed it in a church at Constantinople. It was at that time regarded as of very high antiquity, and supposed to have been painted from the life. It is certain that a pic- ture, traditionally said to be the same which Eudocia had sent to Puleheria, did exist at Constantinople, and was so much venerated by the people as to be regarded as a sort of palladium, and borne in a superb litter or car in the midst of the imperial host, when the Emperor led the army in person. The fate of this relic is not certainly, known. It is said to have been taken by the Turks in 14513, and dragged through the mire ; but others deny this as utterly derogatory to the majesty of the Queen of Heaven, who never would have suffered such an indignity to have been put on her sacred image. According to the Venetian legend, it was this identical effigy which was taken by the blind old Dandolo, when he besieged and took Constantinople in 1204, and brought in triumph to Venice,- where it has ever since been Preserved in the church of St. Mark, and held in somma venerazione. No mention is made of St. Luke in the earliest account of this picture, though, like all the antique effigies of uncertain origin, it was in after tunes attri- buted to him."
The following extract also contains many interesting particulars as to complexion and costume; and may be taken as a fair example of Mrs. Jameson's pleasant style. "Because some of the Greek pictures and carved images had become black through extreme age, it was argued by certain devout writers, that the gin herself must have been of a very dark complexion; and in favour of this idea they quoted this text from the Canticles, I am black, but comely, 0 ye daughters of Jerusalem.' But others say that her complexion had become black only during her sojourn in Egypt. At all events, though the black- ness of these antique images was supposed to enhance their sanctity, it has
never been imitated the fine arts; and it is quite contrary to the descrip- tion of Nimphorus, which is the most ancient authority, and that which is followed in the Greek school.
"The proper dress of the Virgin is a close red tunic, with long sleeves, and over this a blue robe or mantle. In the early pictures the colours are pale and delicate. Her head ought to be veiled. The fathers of the prime- val Church, particularly Tertullian, attach great importance to the decent veil worn by Christian maidens; and in all the early pictures the Virgin IB veiled. The enthroned Virgin., unveiled, with long tresses falling down on either side, was an innovation introduced about the end of the fifteenth cen- tury; commencing, I think, Northern the Milanese, and thence adopted in the German schools and those of Northern Italy. The German Madonnas of Albert purer's time have often magnificent and luxuriant hair, curling in ringlets, I or descending to her waist in rich waves, and always fair. Dark-haired Ma- 1 donnas appear first in the Spanish and later Italian schools. I"In the historical pictures, her dress is very simple ; but in those devo- tional figures which represent her as Queen of Heaven she wears a splendid crown, sometimes of Jewels interwoven with lilies and roses. The crown is often the sovereign crown of the country in which the picture is placed : thus, in the Papal States, she often wears the triple tiara ; in Austria, the imperial diadem. Her blue tunic is richly embroidered with gold and gems. or lined with ermine or stuff of various colours, in accordance with a text e Scripture—' The King's daughter is all glorious within ; her clothing is of wrought gold. She shall be brought unto the Sing in a vesture of needle- work.' In the Immaculate Conception, and in the Assumption, her tunio should be plain white, or white spangled with golden stare. In the subjects relating to the Passion, and after the Crucifixion, the dress of the 'Virgin should be violet or grey. These proprieties, however, are not always at- tended to.
"In the early pictures which represent her as nursing the Divine Infant, (the subject called the Yergine Lattante,) the utmost care is taken to veil the bust as much as possible. in the Spanish school the most vigilant cen- sorship was exercised over all sacred pictures, and with regard to the figures of the Virgin, the utmost decorum was required. What,' says Pacheco,
can be more foreign to the respect which we owe to our Lady the Virgin, than to paint her sitting down with one of her knees placed over the other, and often with her sacred feet uncovered and naked Let thanks be given to the Holy Inquisition, which commands that this liberty should be cor- rected.' For this reason, perhaps, we seldom see the feet of the Virgin in Spanish pictures. Carducho speaks more particularly on the impropriety of painting the Virgin unshod, 'since it is manifest that our Lady was in the habit of wearing shoes, as is proved by the much venerated relic of one of them from her divine feet at Burgos.' "