The stained glass window “The Visitation” at the Metropolitan Museum/Cloisters (New York City) captures a scene from the life of the Virgin Mary described in the Gospel of Luke. I saw this window in my recent travel to the US last September and it particularly fascinated me. This is the first of a number of blog posts I will dedicate to my 2016 US trip.
If you are not familiar with the story of the visitation, here is a brief version, before we get to look at the window. After the Annunciation, Mary leaves Nazareth and goes to the city of Judah to visit her cousin Elizabeth. In the Christian symbolism, Mary’s visit represents her intention to bring the divine grace to Elizabeth and her unborn son. At that time, in fact, both women were pregnant; Mary carried Jesus and Elizabeth was pregnant with John the Baptist.
I just love the climate of this stained glass window: there is something warm in it. The window transpires compassion, calm and joy. The women are holding their hands and touching the arms, witnessing the strong friendship between Mary and Elizabeth, along with their familiarity and fondness.
The faces of Mary and Elizabeth are very delicately painted. Their traits are brushed up with only simple lines but they still are very beautifully executed. The chance in pressure of the brush when the paint was applied to the glass produced lines of different width, creating a sense of movement and dimension. This may give you the feeling that this window is rather “modern”, but instead it dates back to the late medieval time (1444).
The stained glass originally was installed at the Carmelite Church in Boppard-am-Rhein (Germany); now the window is conserved at The Met Cloisters in New York City. The window is also important in the stained glass history because with the use of an angular style in the drapery folds and the juxtaposition of colours, the author initiated a new glass painting style in the Middle Rhine region.