All text and images copyright 2019 Barbara Sartorius Bjelland
I have always loved mermaids, and I like the Starbucks logo. Mermaids seem to symbolize being wild and free. Yesterday I went to the Detroit Institute of Arts (DIA). There I saw an even more beautiful image of personhood, and gained a new perspective.
Here I am looking at a French sculpture of Mary and Jesus, in the museum’s courtyard. The courtyard is a lovely place to sit and/or eat, surrounded by medieval sculpture and a skylight overhead. I noticed that Mary’s crown has flowers and stars in it. I wondered if Starbucks got the idea for their mermaid’s crown with a star, from similar sculptures or paintings of Mary.
I realized these are two cultural touch points, two images of personhood. The Starbucks mermaid seems wild—one with nature—and free to pursue individual pleasure.
The biblical view of Mary and personhood is being free from sin in order to serve Christ; being “one” with Creation but also being set apart to steward Creation and return it to God in praise; and finding one’s identity in community with the triune God and others.
In artwork, Mary is usually depicted with the angel Gabriel, with Jesus, Joseph or her cousin Elizabeth. Here is a 1 minute, 45 second video from the Metropolitan Museum of Art, discussing a sculpture of Mary visiting Elizabeth when they were both pregnant.
Here is another image of Mary, being granted a crown of stars. The dove of the Holy Spirit swoops over Mary’s head, breathed on her by Jesus and God the Father/Creator. This image is in the Cleveland Museum of Art.
The Coronation of the Virgin from about 1420, by the Spanish Rubrieles Master.
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-What images of personhood do you see promoted in our culture?
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