Atelier saint André For a smile
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When looking at the icons of the Mother of God one may believe that what is missing from her face is a smile. And from a certain perspective it would be reasonable to expect that she who is "Full of Grace" would express her joy at giving birth to the Son of God with a smile.

This is not so in Byzantine iconography as Mary is represented in the presence of Divine Majesty, the second person of the Holy Trinity, and thus she expresses with her whole being her respect and a certain "gravitas" because in her heart she knows of the impending passion of her son.

Vladimirskaïa, Atelier Saint-André

This is not to imply that her expression reflects sadness or worry. Far from sadness, her face expresses the qualities of interiority, the profundity of her mission and also her tender compassion toward mankind.

It is only through her Son that glory becomes evident and seems to eminate from the radiant garments that He wears. This is in contrast to the red, brown, or dark blue clothing of Mary that expresses effacement, humility, and obedience to the will of God.

A smile then would minimize the profound movements of Her soul and would emphasize naturalism over the trancendant inner joy represented in her glance, her gesture, her countenance.

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Last update : Mon, Dec 8, 2008, P. Grall © ASA 2000 - 2009 All rights reserved.