The dogma of the Immaculate Conception maintains that the Virgin Mary, from the first instance of her conception, by a singular grace and privilege from Almighty God, in view of the merits of Jesus Christ, the Savior of the human race, was preserved free from all stain of original sin.” This concept enjoyed intense devotion in Spain during the 1600s. First debated by medieval theologians, Pope Pius IX gave it the status of dogma in 1854. The abstract subject required artists to develop appropriate imagery. The crescent moon, for example, comes from the New Testament vision of Saint John the Evangelist (Revelation 12:1) of a woman clothed with the sun, with the moon under her feet.” For centuries, Mary was illustrated wearing red, wrapped in blue. Here, white is used to symbolize her purity. Blue pigments were originally made from costly minerals such as lapis lazuli, cobalt, and azurite. Therefore, the most expensive color was only used for the most worthy of subjects.
Image: Bartolomé Esteban Murillo (Spanish, 1617-1682), The Immaculate Conception, c. 1680. Oil on canvas (4 ft x 7 ft). The Cleveland Museum of Art, Cleveland, Ohio.