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Mary inspires the arts

The Saint Virgin inspiring the Arts

Edmond Van Hove. Groeninge Museum – Bruges. Ca. 1893.

The Madonna inspiring artists and the arts was a recurring theme in Christian painting. The most frequent scene was the Virgin being painted by Saint Luke. Luke was supposed to have made a picture of Mary. Because of this legend Luke became the patron saint of painters and many guilds or medieval associations of painters were named after Saint Luke. But Mary was also connected in representations of musicians and sometimes rows of angels making music accompanied her in compositions.

Edmond Van Hove made a painting that is an example of this theme. He called it ‘The Saint Virgin inspiring the Arts’. Van Hove was a painter of Bruges, but of Bruges of the early twentieth and late nineteenth centuries. The painterly tradition of Bruges did not die out after the Middle Ages and several good painters worked in Bruges at the same time as Van Hove. The tradition continues also in our times, but the artists have become less famous and many work again as good artisans that sometimes reach only a brief fame. Van Hove lived from 1851 to 1913. Bruges knew a revival in the arts in that period, not just in paintings but also in poetry. Van Hove painted in the neo-Gothic style that typified the end of the nineteenth century on the continent and especially in England. He would without doubt have been a Pre-Raphaelitic had he lived in London. Van Hove was a very romantic figure who made some marvellous pictures and deserves to be better known.

In the ‘Saint Virgin inspiring the Arts’ Edmond Van Hove pictured a throning Madonna with on her lap the baby Jesus. Van Hove joined a tradition of centuries with this representation of Mary. Still, she holds Jesus on the left and Jesus stands up on her knees, but the overall scene is that of a classic Madonna image. Mary is dressed in the blue maphorion cloak and light blue and white robes. She is seated on a high throne of Greek columns. To her right and left are ladies, which are exercising the arts. Two ladies are making music, one is painting, and another is sculpting. Finally a lady at Mary’s feet is drawing circles with a compass, which might represent architecture.

In earlier pictures the ladies could be saints; here Van Hove has represented just ordinary women artists around Mary. Behind the scene of Mary and her waiting ladies several figures are painted. These are dressed in Gothic or Renaissance clothes. The whole picture is in soft hues; figures and background are in a haze, as if this was a fresco that has been legated to us from many centuries ago. Yellows, broken whites and browns are dominant and the only striking colours are the blues of Mary and of the lady painter as well as the darker colours of the architect figure. The lady painter is particularly elegant and dignified. She stands with the palette in her hand and all eyes, as well of the ladies as of the figures in the background, are turned towards her and not so much to the Madonna. Van Hove may have emphasised his own art in this way.

Other paintings:

Copyright: René Dewil Back to the navigation screen (if that screen has been closed) Last updated: January 2007
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