Picturing Mary: Woman, Mother, Idea

Picturing Mary: Woman, Mother, Idea on view December 5, 2014–April 12, 2015.

Picturing Mary: Woman, Mother, Idea explores the concept of womanhood represented by the Virgin Mary as well as the social and sacred functions her image has served through time. This landmark exhibition organized by the National Museum of Women in the Arts brings together more than 60 Renaissance- and Baroque-era masterworks from the Vatican Museums, Uffizi Gallery, and other museums, churches, and private collections in Europe and the United States.

Divided into six thematic sections, the exhibition presents images of Mary as a daughter, cousin, and wife; the mother of an infant; a bereaved parent; the protagonist in a rich life story developed through the centuries; a link between heaven and earth; and an active participant in the lives of those who revere her.

The exhibition features works made by both female and male artists. Paintings by Sofonisba Anguissola, Artemisia Gentileschi, Orsola Maddalena Caccia (an Ursuline nun who ran a bustling painting studio in her convent in northern Italy), and Elisabetta Sirani highlight the varied ways in which women artists conceptualized the subject of Mary. These artists’ works are featured alongside treasured Marian paintings, sculptures, and drawings by Fra Filippo Lippi, Botticelli, Michelangelo, Pontormo, Giovanni Battista Tiepolo, and others.

During the presentation of Picturing Mary, NMWA’s website will feature an online exhibition exploring global traditions in Marian imagery, further contextualizing the artworks on view in the galleries. Picturing Mary is part of NMWA’s ongoing program of major historical loan exhibitions that examine humanist themes related to womankind. 


Picturing Mary: Woman, Mother, Idea is organized by the National Museum of Women in the Arts, Washington, D.C., with the support of MondoMostre, Rome.

The exhibition is made possible with sponsorship from Wilhelmina Cole Holladay and Jacqueline Badger Mars, as well as Barbara and Thomas Hale Boggs, Jr., Rose and Paul Carter, and Alejandra and Enrique Segura. The museum is grateful for the generosity of Bertha Soto Braddock, Vincent C. Burke III, Marcia Myers Carlucci, Betty Boyd Dettre, Albert Halprin and Janice Obuchowski, Albert Baker Knoll, Marlene A. and Frederic V. Malek, and TTR Sotheby’s International Realty, and for substantial support from several anonymous donors.

The exhibition is supported by an indemnity from the Federal Council on the Arts and the Humanities. NMWA gratefully acknowledges its partnerships with The Catholic University of America and the Embassy of Italy (on the occasion of Italy’s Presidency of the Council of the European Union).