Thursday, February 18, 2010
Carmine Madonna della Bruna for Haiti
Our Lady of Mount Carmel of Haiti, Terry Nelson
Acrylic on 11" x 18" clay panel.
I painted the image after a 17th century Sicilian 'icon' from the Vatican Museum. The original prototype is known as Madonna Siciliana painted in Italo-Greco style; the Byzantine influence due to Albanian immigrants in Sicily fleeing the invasion of the Ottoman at the end of the 15th century. The dark attributes of the Virgin is not an uncommon characteristic in Sicilian art. The "black" Madonnas also refer to the verse from the Song of Songs, usually attributed to Our Lady, "I am black but beautiful..."
I adapted the image in memory of the victims of the Haitian earthquake. I chose an antique ornamental Mexican clay plaque I found at a tag sale to carry the image. The clay tablet held a tin Mexican retablo I later removed and re-framed - it had not been original to the piece. Much of the gold leaf, bole, and gesso was removed as well. I left the deterioration as is, applied a thin gesso coating in the exact shape of the figures, and painted the image as seen here - leaving the deterioration as a sort of testament to the poverty and destruction Haitians have experienced through time. The traditional figures of souls in the flames of purgatory suggest the ongoing suffering Haitians are enduring in the aftermath of the quake. The holy Virgin being their refuge and hope.
It is one of the rare paintings I have done wherein the Blessed Virgin communicated something to me. Something I cannot express but is revealed in her smile amidst adversity. Our Lady did this to me in only one other icon I attempted to make of her, and that was the Mother of Perpetual Help icon I made several years ago for a church near St. Cloud, Minnesota.
Note: Click on the image for greater detail.