This week I attended the student run lecture, Death and the Maiden: Marian art in Medieval Execution. The speaker told how she traveled to Florence to learn about the role that Mary has played throughout the Church and how she is portrayed through the art of the Medieval Era. It was noted that Christians usually first learn the Hail Mary prayer, which asks for her to pray for us “now and at the hour of our death”. Showing that Mary is present now and always in the lives of Christians. The speaker then went on to explain the Fra Angelica’s lost Tavoletta and its meaning. Essentially it was displayed as two opposite parts of a whole, which was used to shield the eyes from punishment and to be able to see God. The discussion then lead to obeying the law and the consequences that would come if the law were disobeyed. If the law were disobeyed there would be public humiliation and possible death, all in front of the entire community. This is where the Tavolett would come into play and shield the eyes from the punishment and allow them to know that they would see God.
The discussion then lead to two parts of one Tavoletta, which had the crucifixion painted on one said and the coronation on the other. It was discussed how the were painted on the opposite sides of one piece of wood. And it was discussed how they were truly connected and what it meant to have these two different paintings supposedly opposite of one another. The speaker then began to relate Mary into the discussion, and told of what the importance of her really was. It was said that through the Meditations, also known as the 5th Gospel, Christ’s life was described in much an easier way, through the Mary. It portrayed the mother-son relationship, which Mary and Jesus had, and the importance of Mary in Jesus’ life. It was determined that the portrait of the crucifixion, that Mary was not seen as an observer, but rather a participant in Christ’s passion, as she literally pointed to Christ. To reinforce the humanity of Christ, Mary was used as a mother’s perspective on her son’s death. Through Christ’s physical death, Mary experienced an emotional death.
I suppose the overall message that I got from this lecture was that there are many different perspectives that a person can take on life. There are many different angles, views and approaches to these perspectives and there really is no right or wrong way to choose which one to follow. But sometimes it may help to change direction and to look at something from a different view to really understand what is going on and the true meaning of what is being shown. I really have not viewed religious art in any way, but after the lecture, I now understand that there may be different meanings and thoughts which can arise from a single piece of artwork, and have a completely different view then originally thought.