We all know the story of the Virgin Mary, even if you’re not Christian the image of the mother of Christ is almost as familiar as the image of Jesus himself. We most commonly see her depicted wearing a long white robe and almost always a blue veil or head covering. So what is the significance of blue in relation to the mother of Christ?
Every now and then the colour of her robe may differ but very rarely do we see a depiction of the Virgin without blue on her clothing. Its a no brainer when we see the Virgin Mary is depicted wearing white or surrounded by white lilies, white has been an almost universal symbol for purity and innocence for millennia and lilies are in reference to the Annunciation. Blue however is not so universal, with some cultures associating it with tranquillity, masculinity and even grief. In many of the Abrahamic religions, blue is considered to be a sacred colour, partially because of its rarity but also because blue was thought to be the colour of heaven and represent the divine. So when we see it on the Virgin Mary, what does it mean?
Madonna of the Flowers Figurine (left), Lladró’s Nativity Figurine (middle), & Blessed Virgin Mary Sculpture (right).
Mary is one of the most important figures in Christianity, as the ultimate symbol of motherhood her clothing is a reflection of her virtues such as her purity, modesty, faith and love for her child. In Christianity, she is not only the mother of Christ but also the mother of all humanity. In art and sculpture, she is most commonly seen seated or standing in the sky amongst the clouds and dressed in a white robe and blue veil, cloak or sash, so she can watch over her children.
The association between Mary and the colour blue is deeply rooted with references even in the Old Testament, comparing her to the Ark of the Covenant which was shrouded in blue cloth to protect it, so was Mary as the person who carried Christ shrouded and protected by Heaven. Not only does blue literally symbolise the sky, when combined with articles of clothing like her veil, it also serves to emphasise and reflects her strongest traits, such as her modesty, devotion to motherhood, and how she is blessed by the divinity of Heaven. See our full range of pieces inspired by Christianity.
It may not be too surprising to hear that the blue in Mary’s clothing reflects her purity and virtue but what few people know is that historically the blue was an indication of status. Throughout most of our history, colours like blues and purples were extremely hard to make, with these colours not often occurring in nature naturally, as such they were extremely expensive to produce being more valuable than gold at many points. Many cultures, including Ancient Rome, the Byzantine Empire, Egypt and even the courts of Europe in the modern era decreed that only members of the ruling family could wear the colours with severe consequences for any commoners seen wearing these colours. Think how Queen Elizabeth is often seen wearing a blue sash for formal events or how Pharaohs of Egypt used blue in all of their most extravagant decorations. Discover the real story of Cleopatra, the Last Pharaoh of Egypt.
Lladró’s Immaculate Virgin Figurine (ltd edn) inspired by the baroque elegance of Murillo, she is depicted as Queens of the Heavens, surrounded by angels.
You’re probably wondering what any of this has to do with the Virgin Mary, right? Well, along with Mary being mother to Jesus Christ and humanity, she is also considered to be the Queen of the Heavens. In historical times, the blue of her head covering denoted her divine status.
Much of today’s Christian imagery is inspired by some of the most influential cultures of antiquity as Christianity spread. These cultures and their religions helped to shape the traditions, art and even colour palette of religious imagery. In particular, the instances of Mary’s blue veil being physically depicted occurred in Byzantine art as far back as 500 A.D., blue was the colour of the empress, thus elevating Mary’s image and cementing her as the Empress of Heaven.
There are many iterations of the Virgin Mary, with elements of her look changing through history as her relevance evolves with the times. Discover Lladró’s Christmas pieces.