Soul of Mary

Alma de Maria / Nuestra Señora de la Encarnación

Feast day: March 25 – December 25

Patron Saint of all human beings

Other Names: Saint Mary, Virgin Mary

Essay by Alexxis M. Ortiz

The depictions of the Soul of Mary symbolize the moment of the incarnation of Jesus by the Holy Spirit. Mary is known for her Roman Catholic Biblical references. Mary’s various titles can be traced into the Christian history, Incarnation, Virgin Mother, Second Eve, Mother of God, and Immaculate. The first mention of Mary is the story of the Annunciation, which stated she lived in Nazareth and was betrothed to Joseph (Luke 1:26 ff.) and the last mention of her (Acts of the Apostles 1:14) includes her in the company of those who devoted themselves to prayer after the resurrection of Jesus. The Virgin Mother can generally be seen in various paintings and depictions as a healing soul with serenity and grace.

The two retablos depicting the Soul of Mary represents her half-length body over clouds with her arms crossed holding branches of roses and lilies for her purity. Just above her hands is the image to the Holy Spirit in the form of a dove. She has similar postures yet, slightly different facial expressions. In Figure 1, she has a soft motherly gaze looking towards the viewer with a slight grin. She is known to provide comfort and aid to all. This representation of the Soul of Mary Mary’s face has younger features with fresh tones and rejuvenated appearance. While in Figure 2, Mary’s gaze is shifted towards the bottom left corner. Her lack of eye contact and sorrowful frown signifies a painful emotion foreseeing the tragic destiny of her Son. The artist of this Retablo could have been trying to reflect on her emotions during the crucifixion, when she stands sorrowfully at the foot of the cross with a sword piercing her heart. The young Virgin’s hair is covered by a pink veil as are the most mature versions of her (fig.2), while on the first retablo she wears a crown of roses. The blue robes can be traced back to the Biblical roots in the Old Testament. Its iconography represents transcendence, mystery, and the divine. The blue color represents the sky; thus viewed as a spiritual and heavenly color. It is a sacred color, one that reminds us of Mary’s faithfulness and her privileged role in salvation history. Both nineteenth-century retablos continue to depict this miraculous event on Mary’s life.

Figure 1. Soul of Mary (Our Lady of Incarnation /

Alma de Maria (Nuestra Señora de la Encarnación

Anonymous, Mexico. Nineteenth Century.

Oil on tin. 15 ¼ x 9”. NMSU Art Gallery Collection #1965.2.14.

Figure 2. Soul of Mary (Our Lady of Incarnation /

Alma de Maria (Nuestra Señora de la Encarnación

Anonymous, Mexico. Nineteenth Century.

Oil on tin. NMSU Art Gallery Collection #1965.4.9.


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