Youth of the Virgin Mary

Dante Gabriel Rossetti • Painting, 1849, 83.2×63.4 cm
About the artwork
Art form: Painting
Subject and objects: Religious scene, Literary scene
Style of art: The Pre-Raphaelites
Technique: Oil
Materials: Canvas
Date of creation: 1849
Size: 83.2×63.4 cm
Artwork in selections: 18 selections
Exhibitions history

Description of the artwork «Youth of the Virgin Mary»

"Youth of the Virgin Mary" - A picture with an impressive track record and indisputable historical status. This will have to be explained and proved, because very different works have glorified the artist, and they are sold from auctions for 5-7 million dollars completely different. She still has no hint of the famous recognizable muses Rossetti, with sensual red lips, thin fancifully folded fingers, a long powerful neck and fiery red hair. But this picture takes the same place in the history of British art as “The impression. Sunrise "- in the history of French art.

Proof # 1. This is the first picture in which the pre-Raphaelite distinctive sign “PRB” appeared, a symbol of a new world view, a symbol of a tiny artistic group that just gathered to chill powder from the faces of beautiful women, find a blush under it, free women from corsets and complex hairstyles, inventory plants in British forests and fields and remind viewers that each one is different. When this picture first appeared at an exhibition at the Royal Academy, the “PRB” badge did not tell anyone about anything - and the neighboring dull brown bitumen confidently academic canvases were still in the majority and did not feel threatened.

Proof # 2. This is Dante Gabriel Rossetti's first oil painting. And his first work, which appeared in a public exhibition. The young 21-year-old artist was apparently very worried that the painting would not be accepted for the Royal Academy exhibition, so he hurried on the advice of a friend and teacher Ford Madox Brown present it first at the "Free Exhibition", where there were no judges. Surprisingly, she was also accepted into the Academy - and even the reviews about the paintings of all three Pre-Raphaelites were quite favorable. Hunt presented at the same exhibition "Rienzi", but Millet - "Lorenzo and Isabella". Some deviations from the academic norms were considered a manifestation of youth and inexperience. The Youth of the Virgin Mary was sold immediately after the exhibition for 80 guineas.

Proof No. 3. Only a year will pass - and already in 1850 poisonous arrows will fly towards all three Pre-Raphaelites from all sides: academics, journalists, writers will write dozens of mocking and offended reviews. Millet's painting will get the most "Christ in the parental house" - on it the Holy Family is written as a handful of barefoot commoners from an ordinary London carpentry workshop. The moment from the sacred history of Millet ventured to write as if it were his neighbors.

Either because in the picture of Rossetti, written a year earlier, one cannot see the heels of the Virgin Mary under the dress, or because Rossetti is not in principle prone to meticulous naturalism, like Hunt or Millet, his work in 1849 was not considered sacrilegious. Although all the characters are written from family members: Rossetti's sister Christina, his mother Francis, and even from a servant, old Williams. And despite the pious occupation of the Virgin Mary, such an idea of her youth still contradicted the tradition in which it was customary to depict the young Mother of God reading a book.

Proof № 4. In one of the letters, Rossetti shared his vision for the future work: “The painting is about the upbringing of the Most Holy Theotokos, who Murillo and other painters repeatedly interpretedbut, it seems to me, completely disregarding historical adequacy, since they invariably presented her reading the book under the supervision of St. Anne's mother. This occupation does not correspond to the epoch - and can only be admitted as a symbolic image. Therefore, I tried to present something more appropriate and not so familiar: the future Mother of our Lord is engaged in embroidering lilies under the direction of St. Anne; the flower, which she copies, is kept by two little angels. At the large window (or rather, the opening) in the background is seen her father, St. Joachim, pruning the vine. There are also various symbolic details that do not need interpretation. ”.

Holman Hunt, who shared a workshop with Rossetti in 1849, helped him cope with the composition - and one of the angels in the process of working on the painting disappeared. And the characters that were understandable to the Rossetti addressee now require at least a brief interpretation. The books, which the Most Holy Theotokos, due to historical circumstances, could not read, occupy a symbolic place they had - one of the virtues is written on the spine of each of them, and all of them together create a solid foundation for a vase with a lily. Lily in turn - a symbol of innocence. The palm branch and the rosehip branch symbolize Palm Sunday and the Crucifixion of her future Son. The vine that Joachim prunes is a symbol of Christ himself.

Finally, proof No. 5. In the very first pictorial work of Dante, Gabriel Rossetti was able to unnoticeably careless critics demonstrate the main ideas of the Pre-Raphaelite Brotherhood: loyalty to nature and a return to medieval aesthetics and symbols.

Author: Anna Sidelnikova