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Getty Museum Exhibition of Illuminated Manuscripts Highlights Devotion to the Virgin Mary

The Queen of the Angels
August 15-November 5, 2000

May 8, 2000

Los Angeles-The Queen of the Angels, an upcoming J. Paul Getty Museum exhibition whose title has special resonance for the city of Los Angeles, will highlight 400 years of illuminated manuscripts and focuses on the Virgin Mary. Exploring the richness of Marian devotion from the 12th to the 16th century, The Queen of the Angels opens August 15, 2000 at the Getty Center and remains on view through November 5. The exhibition takes its title from the City of Los Angeles' original name, given in honor of the Virgin Mary-El Pueblo de la Reyna de Los Angeles (The Town of the Queen of the Angels).

The 19 works on view were produced in Europe during the Middle Ages and Renaissance, when veneration of the Virgin was at its most intense. Dating from around 1160 to 1530, the works include prayer books, religious service books, history books, a saint's life, and a panel painting. Created in Flanders, France, Italy, Germany, Silesia, and Spain, they highlight Mary's three most important roles: as virgin mother, queen of heaven, and intercessor.

"The Virgin held a central place in the religious life and thinking of medieval Christians, and at times her importance rivaled that of her son, Jesus Christ," says Thomas Kren, the Getty Museum's curator of manuscripts. "Devotion to the Virgin assumed a variety of forms, ranging from the private recitation of prayers to large public church ceremonies. Images of the Virgin permeated nearly all aspects of medieval art, from small devotional objects and tiny prayer books to monumental sculpture and painting."

One group of works in the exhibition shows the special reverence in which Mary was held as the virgin mother of God. An exquisite miniature, Saint Bernard's Vision of the Virgin and Child (about 1480-90) by the French illuminator Simon Marmion, for example, shows Saint Bernard praying before a statue of Mary and the infant Jesus. At the saint's prayer, the statue comes to life, and drops of milk, a metaphor for the gift of life, fall from the Virgin's breast onto Bernard's lips. This sort of image drew particular attention to the Virgin as the human mother of Jesus.

Another group of works depicts Mary as queen. For medieval theologians, Mary was a symbol of the Church, and her coronation in heaven was interpreted as the Church's ultimate triumph. The image of The Assumption of the Virgin in the Stammheim Missal (about 1160) emphasizes this theme. Mary is accompanied by Christ as she gently floats up toward the Lord, who is poised to crown her. In The Coronation of the Virgin (about 1420), a painting on wood panel by the Italian Renaissance artist Gentile da Fabriano, the Virgin and Christ are seated together on a magnificent throne in heaven.

The show's final section explores another important component of late medieval spirituality: the belief in Mary as intercessor who offers prayers to Christ on behalf of the faithful. Mary's intimate relationship with Christ as mother and her high status as queen of heaven made her the perfect spiritual advocate. Christians believed that her intercession effected miracles, because as a dutiful son Christ could hardly refuse her wishes.

A related exhibition, The Making of a Medieval Book (August 15-November 5, 2000), explains the labor-intensive process by which illuminated manuscripts were made during the Middle Ages and Renaissance. The process begins with the preparation of animal skin to make parchment (or vellum), continues through the writing and painting stages, and ends with the binding of the volume. On view are tools and materials used in the process, together with several manuscripts from the Museum's collection.

Public programs presented in conjunction with The Queen of the Angels include a lecture, a family festival, and English- and Spanish-language family art-making workshops. Events are free, but seating and parking reservations are required. Call (310) 440-7300.

Free Public Programs Related to the Exhibition
Reservations required. Call 310-440-7300.


Thursday, August 31
7 p.m., Harold M. Williams Auditorium
Elizabeth C. Teviotdale, associate curator of manuscripts, J. Paul Getty Museum, speaks on the representation of the sorrowful Virgin in Renaissance art and music.

Family Festival

Saturday, October 14
10 a.m.-6 p.m., Museum Courtyard
Performances by local dance and music groups, storytelling, art-making workshops, and gallery activities, some related to The Queen of the Angels. Produced by Community Arts Resources.

Weekend Family Workshops

Saturday and Sunday, October 7 and 8-English language
Saturday and Sunday, October 28 and 29-Spanish language
10:30 a.m.-12 p.m. and 1-2:30 p.m.
Families visit the galleries with one of the Museum's teachers, then work on art projects in the studio. The theme is "Angelic Books" and activities will relate to both The Queen of the Angels and The Making of a Medieval Book.

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About the Getty:

The J. Paul Getty Trust is an international cultural and philanthropic institution devoted to the visual arts that features the Getty Conservation Institute, the Getty Foundation, the J. Paul Getty Museum, and the Getty Research Institute. The J. Paul Getty Trust and Getty programs serve a varied audience from two locations: the Getty Center in Los Angeles and the Getty Villa in Malibu.

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The J. Paul Getty Museum collects in seven distinct areas, including Greek and Roman antiquities, European paintings, drawings, manuscripts, sculpture, and decorative arts, and European and American photographs. The Museum's mission is to make the collection meaningful and attractive to a broad audience by presenting and interpreting the works of art through educational programs, special exhibitions, publications, conservation, and research.