Meaning and Scope of Design

As I said before, it was in the actual doing of the painting that it seemed to be made clear to me what the meaning was that I should try to show.

First and foremost, of course, there was the work on the central figures Our Lady and the Holy Child – and as I laboured and prayed and anguished I seemed to grow to know Our Lady far better than I had before. She was no longer the young Mother of Bethlehem, a beautiful but rather far-away figure. She became a vital and very present reality and it mattered most intensely what her Face meant, and her whole expression. She must be worshipping and offering as well as loving. She is looking forward, but her eyes looking inward over the whole of her Blessed Child’s Life, and she looks forward and sees those who will love Him, and to whom He has given her to be their Mother. She sees us. Three times a day in this place we greet her at the Angelus and ask her prayers, and it is no empty form.

There was a little incident in the painting which added to my awe and reverence of her. I was painting the Holy Child and putting on His little white robe, and it came to me to put it over one shoulder, not both, and I realised then in some way what it must have meant for Mary to hold that Child on her knee and wash and dress and care for Him, and yet to know, if perhaps dimly, that He was God. Her character must have deepened immeasurably, and her power of love.

We had intended that Saints should form part of the background of the picture; St. Peter and perhaps St. Mark (I made a sketch of Bishop Phelps’ head for a possible St. Peter). Cartoons had already been made for St. Michael and St. Gabriel on a large scale, but when we tried them on the wall, the perspective of the curved apse made them look far too big and they dwarfed the central figures. They had been drawn so as to be on the same scale as Our Lady. I had been fortunate in getting some of our servers to pose for me and the students were very useful afterwards.

For the Holy Child I used to make a study of a beautiful little boy (Bert Pinnock) sitting in his high chair. For the Child’s figure, I made different studies from our children at Woodville. There was a group of little ones with Sister Adèle and I think it was on that occasion that I went there to study hands and feet, etc. Sister said the children had never been so quiet as when they watched me working from various points of vantage.

As the picture grew, its form developed; groups of child-angels made a circle round about the Holy Child and His Mother. For some of these, photographs were lent me by old girls; some I painted in free-hand. The draperies were a large part of the design, lending dignity and reverence. For these very elaborate pencil studies were made, as I had been taught, from vestments draped over a lay-figure. They had, of course, to be finished before they could be moved and great was the anxiety if one happened to be wanted! It was Our Lady herself who inspired the principal part of the surroundings. She is there to show her Child; she holds Him out to us; her life is bound up with His. She is “pondering all these things in her heart”, and these things are the events in the life of her Son, those which the Church calls the Mysteries.

First, the Joyful Mysteries.
The Annunciation of Gabriel to Mary (Luke 1:26-38)
The Visitation of Mary to Elizabeth (Luke 1:39-56)
The Birth of Our Lord (Luke 2:1-21)
The Presentation of Our Lord (Luke 2:22-38)
The Finding of Our Lord in the Temple (Luke 2:41-52)

The Sorrowful Mysteries.
The Agony of Our Lord in the Garden (Matthew 26:36-56)
Our Lord is Scourged at the Pillar (Matthew 27:26)
Our Lord is Crowned with Thorns (Matthew 27:27-31)
Our Lord Carries the Cross to Calvary (Matthew 27:32)
The Crucifixion of Our Lord (Matthew 27:33-56)

The Glorious Mysteries.
The Glorious Resurrection of Our Lord (John 20:1-29)
The Ascension of Our Lord (Luke 24:36-53)
The Descent of the Holy Spirit at Pentecost (Acts 2:1-41)
The Assumption of Mary into Heaven (Her being “lifted up” into the Presence of Her Son.)
The Coronation of Mary as Queen of Heaven and Earth (and the joy of the Saints.)

It seemed to me that the groups of Angel figures could be symbolised and either carry symbols or in themselves suggest the different Mysteries.

(The Vatican, on the 16th October 2002, beginning the twenty- fifth year of the Pontificate of Pope John Paul II in his Apostolic Letter, Rosarium Virginis Mariae, added another set of mysteries to bring out more fully the Christological depth of the Rosary.

The Luminous Mysteries.
The Baptism of Our Lord in the River Jordan (Matthew 3:13-16)
The Wedding at Cana, when Christ manifested Himself (Jn 2:1-11)
The Proclamation of the Kingdom of God (Mark 1:14-15)
The Transfiguration of Our Lord (Matthew 17:1-8)
The Last Supper, when Our Lord gave us the Holy Eucharist (Mt 26)

Consequently these mysteries were not included in the painting.)

Last Modified: Fri, 15 Jul 2011 15:01:10 SAST