Tuesday, May 01, 2007

How the Virgin Mary Came to Brother Conrad of Offida and Laid her Son in his Arms

Marie Spartali Stillman (born March 10, 1844, died March 6, 1927)
How the Virgin Mary Came to Brother Conrad of Offida and Laid her Son in his Arms 1892
Oil on Paper
102.8cm x 72.3cm (40.5in x 28.5in)
Wightwick Manor , Wightwick England

Stillman was a London-born Pre-Raphaelite painter of Greek descent. She has been described as (arguably) the best of the Pre-Raphaelite women artists.

She was educated by Ford Madox Ford from 1864-1870, together with his daughters Catherine and Lucy.

The Pre-Raphaelites called her a 'stunner' because of her looks and Burne-Jones and Rossetti employed her as a model.

She often painted in watercolour, and her pictures are detailed, highly accomplished, and jewel-like, with a naive flat perspective.

The theme of the painting is based on Chapter 42 of The Little Flowers of St Francis of Assisi:

"At the same time lived Brother Conrad of Offida in the Convent of Forana in the custody of Ancona, where resided Brother Peter.

Having gone one day into the forest to meditate on God, Brother Peter followed him to see what would befall him; and Brother Conrad began to implore the Virgin Mary, with great fervour and devotion, to obtain from her Blessed Son that he might experience somewhat of the sweetness which St Simeon experienced the day of the Purification, when in his arms he held Jesus the Blessed Saviour.

Having finished his prayer, the Virgin Mary obtained his request; and, behold! the Queen of Heaven appeared in great splendour, with her Blessed Son in her arms, and approaching Brother Conrad placed the Holy Child in his arms. He received him most reverently, and embracing him clasped him to his breast, his heart overflowing and burning with divine love and inexpressible consolation. Brother Peter, who witnessed this scene at a distance, felt likewise in his soul great sweetness and joy.

When the Virgin Mary had departed from Brother Conrad, Brother Peter hastened back to the convent that he might not be seen; but when Brother Conrad arrived, full of joy and happiness, Brother Peter said to him: "O brother, thou hast received great consolation to-day!" And Brother Conrad answered: "What sayest thou, Brother Peter? How dost thou know? Hast thou seen me?" "I know," answered Brother Peter, "that the Virgin Mary, with her Blessed Son, has visited thee." And Brother Conrad, who, through great humility, wished to keep secret the grace with which God had favoured him, entreated Brother Peter to tell no one what he had witnessed; and from henceforth so great was the love which existed between these two brethren, that they seemed to have but one soul and one heart in all things.

The said Brother Conrad, being once in the Convent of Siruolo, delivered a woman who was possessed by a devil, by praying for her a whole night; and her mother coming to know it, he left the place in the morning, that he might not be discovered and honoured by the people."

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