The Immaculate Conception

This 18th-century Italian painter was a major exponent of the late Baroque style known as Rococo, which was elaborately ornamental. He specialized in making decorative fresco paintings and, towards the end of his life, he was hired by King Charles III of Spain to create a series of murals at the Royal Palace in Madrid. They feature vaulted ceilings with such splendid blue skies and white clouds that they convince you they are open to the skies. Beneath these skies a series of characters are placed, such as Ancient gods and symbols of the Spanish Crown territories.

In this oil-on-canvas Immaculate Conception, the painter has respected the traditional colour scheme. The Virgin Mary is dressed in white and blue, with an elegant yellow headdress. Above her is the Holy Spirit, in the shape of a dove. This is rather unusual in depictions of the Immaculate Conception. The Virgin is stepping on a serpent with a dragon’s head, which is holding in its teeth an apple, the symbol of Original Sin. Other symbols in this picture include the mirror of justice and the flowers: the lilies represent purity and the rose is the symbol of charity. The palm tree is also a reference to the Virgin Mary, based on a verse of the Song of Solomon “her waist, slender as the palm tree”. Tiepolo has shunned Murillo’s mysticism and has portrayed the Virgin as an elegant lady.

(c) (R) 2013, MUSMon com S.L.
Text (a) Catalina Serrano Romero
English translation (a) Thisbe Burns