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"All the more horrible because she was beautiful": Picturing Saint Mary of Egypt

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Abstract:

When Stendhal encountered Jusepe de Ribera's half-figure portrait of Mary of Egypt in the Borghese Gallery in Rome, he was shocked by "the horrible old woman, all the more horrible because we can see that she had been beautiful." The legend of Mary of Egypt, one of the so-called holy harlots, remained a popular subject of oral, written and visual accounts in Spain from the thirteenth well into the seventeenth century. In this paper, I will consider the visual representations of Mary of Egypt, focusing on Ribera's portraits of the penitent saint (1641, 1651) and the question of decorum in the representation of female sainthood. I shall argue, by comparing the treatment of Mary to similar portraits of male anchorites (also by Ribera) that this particular saint's identity, predicated on the triangulation of beauty, desire, and the divine, also serves as a particularly creative vehicle for artists to reflect on the question of representation in general, and of the function of beauty in the depiction of holiness.
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Association:
Name: RSA Annual Meeting
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http://www.rsa.org


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URL: http://citation.allacademic.com/meta/p481554_index.html
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MLA Citation:

Velázquez, Sonia. ""All the more horrible because she was beautiful": Picturing Saint Mary of Egypt" Paper presented at the annual meeting of the RSA Annual Meeting, Hilton Montreal Bonaventure Hotel, Montreal, Quebec Canada, <Not Available>. 2014-11-26 <http://citation.allacademic.com/meta/p481554_index.html>

APA Citation:

Velázquez, S. ""All the more horrible because she was beautiful": Picturing Saint Mary of Egypt" Paper presented at the annual meeting of the RSA Annual Meeting, Hilton Montreal Bonaventure Hotel, Montreal, Quebec Canada <Not Available>. 2014-11-26 from http://citation.allacademic.com/meta/p481554_index.html

Publication Type: Conference Paper/Unpublished Manuscript
Abstract: When Stendhal encountered Jusepe de Ribera's half-figure portrait of Mary of Egypt in the Borghese Gallery in Rome, he was shocked by "the horrible old woman, all the more horrible because we can see that she had been beautiful." The legend of Mary of Egypt, one of the so-called holy harlots, remained a popular subject of oral, written and visual accounts in Spain from the thirteenth well into the seventeenth century. In this paper, I will consider the visual representations of Mary of Egypt, focusing on Ribera's portraits of the penitent saint (1641, 1651) and the question of decorum in the representation of female sainthood. I shall argue, by comparing the treatment of Mary to similar portraits of male anchorites (also by Ribera) that this particular saint's identity, predicated on the triangulation of beauty, desire, and the divine, also serves as a particularly creative vehicle for artists to reflect on the question of representation in general, and of the function of beauty in the depiction of holiness.


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Relic-Pictures in El Greco's Portrayal of Saints: Temporalities of the Toledan Saint Ildefonso and Domestic Devotion


 
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