Wednesday, July 23, 2014

Iconography of St. Anne – 2014 Update

Willem Vrelant, Anna selbdritt
from Book of Hours
Flemish, ca. 1460
The Hague, Koninjlijk Bibliothek
MS 76F7, fol. 25v (detail)

Three years ago I wrote extensively about the iconography of St. Anne, mother of Mary and grandmother of Jesus (see here for listing of the articles).  At the time, the iconographic image that was most of a revelation to me was that known as the Anna Selbdritt.  Although a few of these images were very well known, the fact that it was a recognizable iconographic type was not well known.  Therefore, the few images that I was able to find at the time were nearly all new to me. 

In anticipation of the 122nd annual novena in honor of St. Anne that has taken place in my parish every July since 1892 I decided to search for some additional images of St. Anne to add to those that appeared in my blog postings of three years ago.  In the search I discovered many, many more Anna Selbdritt images, most dating to the period in which devotion to St. Anne was very popular (approximately the late 15th through mid-sixteenth centuries), but some of more recent date.  Nearly all come from northern European countries.

Some belong to the tradition of seated figures:  Jesus seated on Mary, who herself sits on the lap of Anne or at her feet.

Anonymous, Anna Selbdritt
North German, 1307
Stralsund, St. Nicholas Church
(the statue was seriously damaged during the Reformation

Fra Bartolomeo, Drawing for St. Anne Altarpiece
Italian, ca. 1510
Florence, San Marco Museum

Others belong to what is known as the "bench type" or the side-by-side tradition, where Anne and Mary, holding the infant Jesus, sit side by side.

Anna Selbdritt with Donor, Victor of Carben
German, early 15th Century
Cologne, Cathedral of St. Peter
Master of the Mansi Magdalen
Madonna and Child with St. Anne
Netherlands, ca. 1515-1525
Remagen, Arp Museum Bahnhof Rolandseck
On loan from Rau Collection for UNICEF

Some take a variant view in which a seated Anne holds Jesus, while Mary stands beside her.  

Anna Selbdritt
German (Franconia), ca. 1480
New York, Metropolitan Museum of Art, Cloisters Collection
Wilhelm Mengelberg, Anna Selbdritt
German, 1908
Cologne, Basilica of the Holy Apostles
This early 20th century image shows that the
tradition has continued for a very long time.

Others belong to the tradition in which an outsized Anne holds a small Mary and an even smaller Jesus.

Madonna and Child with St. Anne
Spanish, 1270-1290
Budapest, National Museum of  Fine Arts
Madonna and Child with St. Anne
German, 1400-1450
Minden, Cathedral Treasury

Madonna and Child with St. Anne
German, late 15th Century
Speyer, Cathedral Museum of the

Madonna and Child with St. Anne
German, early 16th Century
Aachen, Suermondt-Ludwig Museum

These images, coming from many locations, over a number of centuries, prove how much and how deeply St. Anne was revered in the Middle Ages, into the Renaissance and beyond.

There is one further image that is quite charming and comes from the eighteenth century in Austria. It's not high art, but it is a charming continuation of the tradition.

Madonna and Child with St. Anne
Austria, 18th Century
Graz, Joanneum Museum

© M. Duffy, 2014

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