This week as part of my morning prayer I have been reading passages from Benedictus: Day by Day with Pope Benedict XVI. It was put together by the people who publish Magnificat, so it it a beautiful little book, filled with gorgeous art, and has a great selection of thought (and prayer)-provoking readings from Benedict XVI's writing. It seems to be out of print, but you can get a used copy here for basically the cost of shipping.
This picture of the Visitation by Mariotto Albertinelli was a facing page between April and May. I had not heard of Albertinelli before, but when I looked at his work, several pieces were familiar to me.
This is the most compelling picture that I have seen in a good while. There is nothing ethereal or stylized here. These are real women--the kind of women we see everyday. They are beautiful with a beauty that comes from their essential characters. They are strong with a strength that is intrinsically feminine. This is one of the quarrels that I have with 20th century Feminists. Instead of mining this wealth of feminine strength, they relied on a poor imitation of masculine strength and lost on both fronts.The women in this picture haven't made that mistake.
And then, there's this look.
This is a gaze that is so intimate that is draws you in, and yet, how many of us could bear it if we were there in person? Here is look that is filled with love, concern for the other, and the deep knowledge that something beyond the knowledge of man is hidden within them. It asks the question, "How is it with you?" And the answers, "The Lord has done great things for me," "And why is this granted to me...?" I can't imagine what Albertinelli drew on to create this image.
As I was thinking about this painting, it occurred to me that this may have been the first time that two people looked at each other with a love that was informed by the love of Jesus, the first conversation between two people who knew that the Creator had entered His creation. How overwhelming it must have been to them. How comforting it must have been to them to be able to share the miracle within her with the only person in the world that could truly understand how it felt.