I have been spending some time of late exploring figures of Christ and Mary which are not the usual Western images. It all began because of what I was planning for Good Friday. While there are lots of non-Western images out there of the Nativity and a number of the Annunciation, there are very few of Mary cradling her dead Son. I do wonder if this is a cultural anomaly and when I have time I am going to look into that question, however for now I want to share with you an image I discovered of the Annunciation, as today is the day the Annunciation has been moved to, with the 25th March falling on Good Friday this year.
We are so used to pictures of angels hoovering on their massive wings above a richly dressed Mary piously kneeling. I know there are other variations such as, Henry Ossawa Turner, Dante Gabriel Rossetti and James C Christensen whose annunciations have long been been favorites of mine as they express the fear and wonder that would surely overcome anyone when such a message is delivered. While Gottfried Helnwein’s take of the message being delivered out of a television set is, in my opinion, genius. But I find on the whole the traditional pictures of the Annunciation troublesome. Don’t get me wrong I have favourites from that genre also, beautifully painted often with wonderful angels, and I do like an angel, but they often fail to depict the intimacy of the event. I, for one, believe that one of the reasons people are often reticent about expressing their faith is because encounters with God are intimate affairs and surely this particular encounter is the most intimate of all.
So today I want to share with you a wood inlay from India. As if often the case with such items that one uncovers on the internet I have not been able to find out who did this work, it is possible that the artist is unknown and in some ways that pleases me. There is no angel but rather a bird, looking more like an eagle, than the maybe expected dove, wings extended as if offering protection to Mary. She is so caught up in worship it would appear she is not even aware of God’s presence descending upon her at the moment captured. I love the way the grain in the wood extends from the direction of the bird as if it is the Holy Spirit being poured upon her.
It is a private moment, that moment when earth came down to heaven, a private moment which changed the world forever.