Thursday, July 20, 2006

Mary in secular art: 'Sotileza' by Francis Picabia

This painting was recently on display in London's Whitechapel Gallery. It was part of the 'Inner Worlds' exhibition. It is one of Francis Picabia's so-called Transparency images and was painted in about 1928.

The layers of the image show some distinctly Spanish subjects that seem to blend into each other: the Virgin, a matador in full costume and a Spanish lady wearing a lace mantilla. It is like a dream landscape of predominant images from Spanish culture. The bust of the Virgin Mary is based on a Romanesque statue of the 'Sedes Sapientiae' (Seat of Wisdom) type. Many of such statues can still be found in Spain today and are often considered miraculous. On the picture by Picabia the serene image is beautifully contrasted with the worldly looking Spanish lady.


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