To those who may be receiving one of these post-notifications for the first time: This is not a blog; it’s actually part of a book, and will make little sense to you without knowledge of what has come before—which you can easily obtain, along with a goodly amount of satirical theatre as matters progress, by simply entering ttgftyri.org into your web browser, opening the menu, and starting at page one. J.J.
Okay, time to look at some numbers.
So far, we’ve encountered one thousand fifty-seven paintings, all by Italians, that fit our criteria.
These paintings, in which more than two hundred artists were commissioned by various Catholic institutions and devout individuals—ranging from wealthy laymen to Bishops, Archbishops, Cardinals, and of course the Pope himself—to come up with a depiction of the Madonna in one situation or another, were executed over a period of some four hundred years, beginning with the rise of the Renaissance around 1250 and for reasons that will soon become apparent, starting to fade out around 1650, or well into the Baroque period.
That averages out to about fifty artists per century; and while the first ones often varied their color scheme for the Virgin’s garments from one painting to another, using the one at issue here only some of the time, by Botticelli’s day (1445-1510) they rarely used any other; indeed by then, blue-over-red had become her color-motif—to the extent that (1) it was rarely used for anyone else, save the mature Christ himself, in a painting, and (2) she just didn’t ‘look right’ without it. And it would remain that way for the next two hundred years.
Botticelli alone did more than fifty such paintings; and Raphael, whose life was cut short by illness, almost as many. In fact, most of the artists of that span produced at least fifteen or twenty; while here we must add that of the last hundred fifty-seven painters mentioned—from whose ouvre we dared show but one painting each, lest we burden ourselves with many more examples of this color convention than was really necessary—about a third had a dozen or more such paintings to offer; which means that our one thousand fifty-seven examples could easily have been increased by a minimum of six hundred.
So now let’s check out the rest of Catholic Europe, beginning with neighboring France; while here again, due to the sheer number of painters that we’re going to be mentioning in the several countries that we’ll be visiting, we must confine ourselves to one example per artist.
My comprehensive list of painters by nationality (see Wikipedia at https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Lists_of_painters_by_nationality) indicates that in neighboring France, there weren’t any painters to speak of until the seventeenth century, when some talented individuals—usually following an apprenticeship in the studio of some Italian master—discovered that they could make a good living by simply working on the vanity of the king, his family, courtiers, and in fact every nobleman and noblewoman of any means into whose good graces they might eventually make their way, subsequently telling them how powerful and beautiful they were and offering to paint their portrait.
However, during that century, at least twenty French painters also received some commissions from the Church, resulting in such paintings as the ones shown below.