Culture Magazine

Wednesday 13th December: The Salutation

By Kirsty Stonell Walker @boccabaciata
Here'a a weird fact about me - I never liked Wednesdays.  Actually, I have only had a strong dislike of Wednesday since I was 6 when my teacher, Mrs Lynch, told me I was too stupid to be with the other children and put me in a room on my own for the year.  However, that was almost 40 years ago so I better find something nice to bring you for this particular Wednesday...

Wednesday 13th December: The Salutation

The Salutation (1883) Evelyn de Morgan

Enough of my childhood issues and on with Blogvent and today we have a lesser seen moment from the Virgin Mary's life.  She popped round to her cousins Elizabeth and Zachariah's home and here we see her greeting her cousin.  However, the moment is more about the people we can't see as this is the moment that Jesus meets John the Baptist, and John the Baptist 'jumped with joy', which can't have been pleasant for poor old Elizabeth.  Lily used to do that every time Pachelbel's Canon played, there were feet and elbows everywhere, it was like the alien trying to break out.  Anyway, I knew Elizabeth was meant to be older but de Morgan has made her very much older and a little decrepit.  John the Baptist is another angel-baby, but Gabriel just was the bearer of jolly good news to Zachariah rather than actually doing the womb-lily-pointing thing.

Wednesday 13th December: The Salutation

SOS (1914-16)

De Morgan often included her spirituality in her work, even when they weren't overtly religious.  Her pacifism in the face of the First World War, reflected in S.O.S (Save Our Souls) shows a figure asking the heavens for help as the dark monsters emerge from the cloudy seas around her feet.  

Wednesday 13th December: The Salutation

Life and Thought Emerging from the Tomb (1893)

Her colourful, elaborate angels are probably the favorite aspects of her work for many people.  The luminous figures in rainbow shades appear to teem from the sky in  Life and Thought... and the gorgeous dawn colours are reflected in Aurora Triumphans' heavenly host.

Wednesday 13th December: The Salutation

The Nativity (no date)

De Morgan's spiritualism appears in many pieces of her work but she also produced very traditional pieces such as The Nativity, in which Mary doesn't appear.  Mind you that is a very forward Jesus - my daughter rolled herself over a week old which impressed everyone but Jesus has just been born and he's already standing.  The parental part of me does worry that he's going to fall off that manger but he'll land on a lamb which will be nice and soft (maybe not for the lamb).

Wednesday 13th December: The Salutation

Angel Piping to the Souls in Hell (1916)

This is one of the strangest paintings I've seen and certainly equally comforting and disturbing.  I'm not sure the angel is helping the souls or providing more torture by reminding them that they are not in a position to enjoy lovely music, what with all the roasting.  Actually, this one would make a good Christmas card as it suggests to me the torment of being trapped listening to a child who has been given a musical toy for Christmas.
So what of de Morgan's Mary?  It's interesting that she chose that moment to show, steering away from the more obvious annunciation or nativity.  It is a moment between two women, between two mothers, whose children would go on to do powerful things.  One is an old woman who longed for a son, the other is barely more that a child herself but both have been unexpected drawn into a narrative.  The two figures tell their own stories by their postures; Mary standing straight and tall as the lilies behind her, taking on the persona of a queen.  Elizabeth is stooping and deferential to her young cousin all because of the circumstances that have been imposed on them.  This is their moment of calm with everything still to come.
I wish you a peaceful evening and I'll see you tomorrow...

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