Mary, Queen of Heaven, by the Master of the Saint Lucy Legend, is a striking example of Marian art. The work, when first viewed, might seem straightforward-a typical, albeit large, representation of the Virgin Mary's ascension to heaven- an event represented countless times in religious art. However, this is no ordinary Christian painting. Every inch contains symbolism, intricate details, movement, or religious iconography. Rather than simply being a piece to be viewed, Mary, Queen of Heaven offers an experience, and prompts in its viewers consideration and reflection of the imagery, as well as the greater message.
The Virgin Mary is depicted as the largest figure shown, taking up a large part of the composition, particularly vertically. She is placed almost directly in the center- making it very clear that she is the subject of the work. The work, measuring 78 7/16 x 63 11/16 in, seems to dwarf the viewer, while the subtle details prompt the viewer to take a closer look. The result is the illusion of being engulfed by the image- the viewer is very nearly in the scene along with the Virgin. The grand size serves to mirror the importance of The Virgin Mary in Christian belief, while at the same time making it easily viewable from greater distances. The size, subject matter, and iconography of the work suggest that this piece was created as a devotional panel, for display in a church, shrine, or oratory.
The work contains imagery that suggests three different events in the bible: the coronation of the Virgin as queen of heaven, the assumption of the Virgin to heaven, and the apocalypse. Mary is shown surrounded by angels that reach out to her, guiding her up to Heaven- where the holy trinity are waiting to crown her. This depicts both the coronation and the assumption. Mary stands on a crescent moon shape, and her striated halo closely resembles the rays of the sun- suggesting the idea of Mary as the Woman of the Apocalypse described in the Book of Revelation. The simultaneous representation of these three different events helps to serve the panel's purpose as a devotional panel- prompting the viewer to consider the entire life of the Virgin, rather than just a single specific event.
Despite the large size of the painting, there is almost no negative space. The composition is crowded with angels aiding the Virgin on her path to Heaven. Despite their neutral and serene expressions, these figures appear joyous as they guide Mary heavenward, due to their poses and the vibrant colors of their robes. The figures of the angels are arranged in almost a mirror image in diagonals on either side of the Virgin, forming an implied triangle. This triangle guides viewer's eye upward towards the opening to heaven, while the mirrored imagery with Mary at the center creates a balanced composition, and places emphasis on the Virgin Mary. This combination suggests to the viewer the upward movement of the static figure of Mary.
Above Mary's head, the...