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Santa Maria de Montserrat

Print
1940 - 1960 (Printed and published)
Artist/Maker
Place of origin

In art historical terms, a black Madonna is a painting or sculpture depicting the Virgin Mary with dark or black skin, created in Europe in the late medieval period, or sometimes an older image whose documented popular cult dates from that time. Some are made of dark or black materials such as ebony, others are said to have become blackened from the soot of candles, although this explanation and the significance of the Madonna’s skin colour is contested. There are several hundred black Madonnas in Europe. The topic of black Madonnas has attracted a considerable literature in recent decades approaching the subject from the perspective of various academic disciplines including anthropology, psychology, art history, feminism, and Black history.

Montserrat is a mountain range in Catalonia and the site of the Benedictine monastery Santa Maria de Montserrat which houses a wonder-working statue of the Virgin Mary under that title, also known affectionately to devotees by the dimnuitive La Moreneta (The Little Dark One) - a reference to the statue's black colour. According to legend, the statue was carved by St Luke in Jerusalem and brought to Barcelona by St Peter. It was later buried in the mountains to hide it from the conquering Moors and rediscovered by shepherds in the 8th century who were guided to the spot by an angelic chorus. When the bishop tried to remove the statue to enshrine it in his cathedral in Manresa it became supernaturally heavy and wouldn't budge so a shrine was built around it on the spot instead. The earliest written documentation of the shrine is an 932 endowment by the Count of Barcelona renewing one made by his father in 888. The monastery was founded in the 11th century and extensively rebuilt in the 19th and 20th centuries. The current statue is a 12th-century romanesque sculpture of the type known as 'Throne of Wisdom' or 'Virgin in Majesty' and may have replaced an earlier image. One of the most famous devotees of Our Lady of Montserrat was the founder of the Society of Jesus (Jesuits), St Ignatius of Loyola (1491-1556), who marked the beginning of his religious vocation with a pilgrimage to the shrine in March 1522 and presented his sword and dagger to the Virgin (he had previously been a soldier). Pope Leo XIII (1810-1903) declared Our Lady of Montserra patron of Catalonia and raised the monastery church to the status of a basilica in 1881.

This holy card would have been published and sold as a souvenir of the shrine. The illustration is in the style of wood-engraving, a printing technique that enjoyed a mid-20th century revival.


Object details

Category
Object type
TitleSanta Maria de Montserrat (published title)
Materials and techniques
Lithography on card
Brief description
Santa Maria de Montserrat
Holy card published by Arte Sacro
Spain, 1940-1960
Lithograph
Physical description
Rectangular cream card (portrait format) lithographically printed in black, beige, dark and pale blue, reproducing a wood-engraved illustration. Profile bust of the Black Madonna of Montserrat (printed in beige and black) with mountains and a starry sky in the background (dark blue with details in pale blue), lettered within the design (in pale blue) SANTA MARIA DE MONTSERRAT, within an oval cartouche on a rectangular field of pale blue. Lettered in the margin in pale blue with logo and ARTE SACRO A - 31 (bottom left corner) and REGISTRADO (bottom right corner).
Dimensions
  • Sheet height: 10.8cm
  • Sheet width: 7.1cm
Content description
Profile bust of the Black Madonna of Montserrat with mountains and a starry sky in the background, lettered with title within the design.
Production typeMass produced
Marks and inscriptions
  • SANTA MA RI A DE MONT SER RAT (Lettered within the design)
  • ARTE SACRO (Bottom left)
  • REGISTRADO (Bottom right)
Credit line
Given by Tim Travis in memory of Leslie Travis
Subjects depicted
Place depicted
Summary
In art historical terms, a black Madonna is a painting or sculpture depicting the Virgin Mary with dark or black skin, created in Europe in the late medieval period, or sometimes an older image whose documented popular cult dates from that time. Some are made of dark or black materials such as ebony, others are said to have become blackened from the soot of candles, although this explanation and the significance of the Madonna’s skin colour is contested. There are several hundred black Madonnas in Europe. The topic of black Madonnas has attracted a considerable literature in recent decades approaching the subject from the perspective of various academic disciplines including anthropology, psychology, art history, feminism, and Black history.

Montserrat is a mountain range in Catalonia and the site of the Benedictine monastery Santa Maria de Montserrat which houses a wonder-working statue of the Virgin Mary under that title, also known affectionately to devotees by the dimnuitive La Moreneta (The Little Dark One) - a reference to the statue's black colour. According to legend, the statue was carved by St Luke in Jerusalem and brought to Barcelona by St Peter. It was later buried in the mountains to hide it from the conquering Moors and rediscovered by shepherds in the 8th century who were guided to the spot by an angelic chorus. When the bishop tried to remove the statue to enshrine it in his cathedral in Manresa it became supernaturally heavy and wouldn't budge so a shrine was built around it on the spot instead. The earliest written documentation of the shrine is an 932 endowment by the Count of Barcelona renewing one made by his father in 888. The monastery was founded in the 11th century and extensively rebuilt in the 19th and 20th centuries. The current statue is a 12th-century romanesque sculpture of the type known as 'Throne of Wisdom' or 'Virgin in Majesty' and may have replaced an earlier image. One of the most famous devotees of Our Lady of Montserrat was the founder of the Society of Jesus (Jesuits), St Ignatius of Loyola (1491-1556), who marked the beginning of his religious vocation with a pilgrimage to the shrine in March 1522 and presented his sword and dagger to the Virgin (he had previously been a soldier). Pope Leo XIII (1810-1903) declared Our Lady of Montserra patron of Catalonia and raised the monastery church to the status of a basilica in 1881.

This holy card would have been published and sold as a souvenir of the shrine. The illustration is in the style of wood-engraving, a printing technique that enjoyed a mid-20th century revival.
Collection
Accession number
E.511-2018

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Record createdJune 20, 2018
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