16 incredibly beautiful images of Mary in art

A beautiful array of timeless images—both classical and modern—to honor the virgin Mary, the spiritual mother to us all.

From left to right: Agiosoritissa Icon, Mother of God, Anonymous, 7th century. 

May is traditionally the month of Mary. Around the world, Christians acclaim and remember the Blessed Virgin by praying rosaries, decorating statues with flowers, and participating in May Crowning ceremonies. For Her wanted to honor Mary by presenting a beautiful array of timeless images—both classical and modern—that remind us how Mary is a spiritual mother to us all.

Agiosoritissa Icon (Mother of God) unknown artist

First image of Mary

Agiosoritissa Icon, Mother of God, Anonymous, 7th century.

Icons are windows to heaven, and a reminder that those who have died are still with us. This beautiful icon, painted in the 7th century, is one of the oldest known images of Mary. Since very few icons from this period have survived it’s a treasure.

Virgin Mary Annunciate, by Fra Angelico

Virgin Mary Annunciate, Fra Angelico

Virgin Mary Annunciate, Fra Angelico, 1431–1433, Detroit Institute of Arts, Detroit, USA.

Mary—painted here by Fra Angelico, a 15th century monk—is often portrayed holding a Bible since Jesus is called “The Word.” In a way, by studying the Scriptures, Mary knew and loved her son before he was even conceived.

Our Lady of Guadalupe

Our Lady of Guadalupe

Our lady of Guadalupe, 1531 Basilica of Our Lady of Guadalupe, Tepeyac Hill, Mexico City, Mexico.

This historically significant and famous image of Mary never ceases to amaze viewers, especially when they gaze up at the original in Mexico City. When it miraculously appeared on the cloak of a peasant named Juan Diego in 1531, the image became a sign for ages to come of Mary’s love for humanity.

Madonna, by Filippo Lippi (mid-15th century)

Madonna by Filippo Lippi

Madonna with the Child and two Angels, Filippo Lippi, 14061469, Uffizi Gallery, Florence, Italy. Luisa Ricciarini | Leemage

The Scriptures say that Mary pondered the words and actions of Jesus in her heart. Whether she understood or not, Mary always prayerfully and calmly considered how God was at work in her life and in the world.

Christ child breastfeeding, unknown artist

Madonna breastfeeding by Netherlandish painter

Madonna and Child with Saint Barbara and Saint Catherine, unknown artist, ca. 1525, Netherlandish, RISD Museum, Providence, USA.

One of many historical images of Mary breastfeeding Jesus, this one depicts the beauty of the human body and the closeness of a mother and child in the most basic of human interactions.

African Madonna, unknown artist

African Madonna

African Madonna, unknown artist.

This beautiful depiction of an African Madonna with vibrant colors and a stylized manner is reminiscent of an icon in its formality, but still conveys the tender protectiveness of a mother for her child.

Head of the Virgin, by Leonardo da Vinci

Head of the Virgin, Leonardo da Vinci

The Head of the Virgin in Three-Quarter View Facing Right, Leonardo da Vinci, 1508–12, The Metropolitan Museum of Arts, New-York City, USA.

This image, a practice chalk drawing for a later painting, shows how masterful Leonardo was at his craft. The Virgin’s profile is serene and has been described as possessing “magical beauty.” It’s hard not to notice the love in her eyes.

African Madonna, by Hennie Niemann Jnr

African Madonna, Hennie Niemann Jnr, 2006, Johans Borman Fine Art.

Painted by South African artist Hennie Niemann Jnr, the creativity and use of color in this painting reveals Mary as we’ve never seen her before. Serene and beautiful, she appears ageless .

Virgin Mary, by Francesco Francia, ca 1450

Virgin Mary by Francesco Francia

Virgin Mary, Francesco Francia, ca 1450, North Carolina Museum of Art, Raleigh, USA.

Francia painted the Virgin here with such delicacy that supposedly the people of Venice, “When they beheld the new and living beauty, ran madly to see it, thinking it would never be possible to improve upon it.”

Virgin Mary, by Jan van Eyck (from the Ghent Altarpiece, 1432)

Mary in the Ghent Altarpiece by Jan Van Eyck

Virgin Mary, detail from the Ghent Altarpiece, Hubert van Eyck, Jan van Eyck, 1432, St Bavo’s Cathedral, Ghent, Belgium.

This image is a panel in a larger collection of paintings created to sit on a church altar. During World War II, the painting was stolen and later recovered by the Monuments Men. Van Eyck, the artist, worked with a then-new type of paint made of oils and used them to obtain a saturation of color that is unparalleled.

Coronation of the Virgin, by El Greco

Coronation of the Virgin, El greco

Coronation of the Virgin, El Greco, 1591, Santa Cruz Museum, Toledo, Spain.

El Greco’s typical luminosity shines through in this coronation scene. Down below, the disciples are gathered and gaze upwards in wonder at a heavenly scene—the Virgin Mary being crowned Queen of Heaven by all three persons of the Trinity.

Theotokos, by Ann Marie Campbell

Icon of Mary, Ann Marie Campbell

Theotokos, Ann Marie Campbell, 2010.

Theotokos means “God-bearer,” a title given to Mary, who bore the son of God. Artist Ann Marie Campbell, made her own egg tempera paint using yolks and powdered pigments from around the world and adding 23 karat shell gold and Swarovski crystals to this beautiful icon, which she says is among her personal favorites.

La Virgen de la leche, by Luis de Morales

Virgin and Child, Luis de Morales

La Virgen de la leche, Luis de Morales, ca 1565, Prado Museum Madrid, Spain.

In this intimate portrait by 16th century Spanish artist known as “El Divino,” the baby Jesus tugs at the veil of his mother and clutches at her breast. The painting reminds us of Mary’s maternity. Like any baby, Jesus was totally dependent on his mother for his life and sustenance.

Madonna the Magnificent, by Sandro Botticelli (ca 1445)

Madonna the Magnificent, Sandro Botticelli

Madonna of the Magnificat, Sandro Botticelli, 1483, Uffizi Gallery, Florence, Italy.

The title of Botticelli’s painting alludes to the Magnificat, a prayer of thanks that Mary offered to God. The Blessed Mother is depicted here being crowned with shining stars, an allusion to one of her traditional titles, “Stella,” which means “Star.”

($45, All Posters)

Virgin Mary, by El Greco

Virgin Mary, El Greco

Virgin Mary, El Greco, 1585, Museum of Fine Art, Strasbourg, France.

El Greco paints Mary here in a way that allows her soul to shine out from the image. The coloring is subtle but luminous, and although Mary seems apprehensive, she is also radiant.

Our Lady of Perpetual Help, Byzantine icon (believed to be from the 13th century or 14th century)

Our Lady of Perpetual Help

Our Lady of Perpetual Help, Byzantine icon ca. 13th century or 14th century.

The legend behind this Byzantine icon is that it’s a copy of a lost original painted by St. Luke himself. Tradition has it that this scene depicts the moment Jesus awoke from a bad dream and Mary comforted him. For centuries, Christians have turned to Our Lady of Perpetual Help to ask for Mary’s intercession.

Fr. Michael Rennier
Fr. Michael Rennier
Fr. Michael Rennier graduated from Yale Divinity School and lives in St. Louis, Missouri with his wife and 5 children. He is an ordained Catholic priest through the Pastoral Provision for former Episcopal clergymen that was created by Pope St. John Paul II. He’s also a contributing editor at Dappled Things, a journal dedicated to the written and visual arts.

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