Blue – the colour of the sea and the sky. The colour of the infinite…
Blue guides our eye to the horizon and from there our gaze flutters to the heavens.
Blue is calming, it brings us hope, it raises our spirits, but it is also a tad mysterious.
Where will this blue lead us?
What is beyond this blue?
What celestial secrets does this entrancing colour hold?
Why, The Queen of Heaven of course …
The Queen of Heaven is one of the many titles given to the The Virgin Mary of the Christian religion.
The Virgin Mary is central to the Christian story as the Mother of Christ. Following her death, Mary was Assumed into Heaven where she became The Queen of Heaven.
In the majority of portrayals of The Virgin Mary in Byzantine, Renaissance and Baroque art, she is shown wearing a mantle of blue.
Not only does the blue indicate The Virgin’s position in Heaven, it also visually and artistically celebrates her worth and her central position in Christianity. For, the blue pigment used to paint her mantle was, at the time, worth more than gold.
Blue did not take its rightful place in Western Art until the late 13C, when the very rare Lapis Lazuli, mined in Afghanistan, started to appear in Europe. This intensely blue semi-precious stone proved to be the perfect raw material from which to make a radically new blue paint.
And what did they name this new blue treasure?
Ultramarine because it came from across the sea.
And any patron worth their salt would want to show off their wealth by commissioning a work bejewelled with this most precious Ultramarine. The Queen of Heaven was given a treatment worthy of her status. She was cloaked in a colour more expensive than gold.
And so the Queen of Heaven looks down on us forever bedecked in the most luxurious, the most thrillingly vivid, the most triumphant of blues.
Who wouldn’t want a mantle which, while made from the most expensive stone on earth, equally elevates us to the Heavens?
All images: Wikimedia Commons