This image shows Our Lady of Guadalupe, one of the most famous icons of the Virgin Mary, and Mexico’s most celebrated religious image.
I’ve included it because it displays Mary as Christians think of her during Advent: pregnant with the baby Jesus. I am not an authority on art, but the reason we know she’s pregnant is not because of any changes to her body, but because of the black ribbon wrapped round her dress in an empire-line; this was the traditional Mexican indicator of pregnancy at the time the icon was produced (the sixteenth century).
The icon is housed in the Basilica of Our Lady of Guadalupe, north of Mexico City. The Basilica is close to the location where Catholics believe Mary appeared to the indigenous Native American, Juan Diego (1474-1548).
Hat tip to Br. Stephen Morrison of the Norbertines of St. Philip’s Priory, whose “Devotional Images for Advent” got me interested in images of the pregnant Mary (again – when I was little I used to love drawing a v. pregnant Mary on the back of a much smaller donkey. And poor old Joseph).
Dr Sophie Duncan is Fellow in English at Christ Church, University of Oxford. She works regularly as a historical advisor and as a dramaturg for theatre, TV, radio and film. She likes theatre, detective fiction and cocktails.