The Four Marys / by Sasha Ward

The Mary Window, St Martin-on-the-Hill, Scarborough 1868

The Mary Window, St Martin-on-the-Hill, Scarborough 1868

I have seen three Morris & Co. windows recently that use the same Burne-Jones cartoon for the figure of the Virgin Mary, in the centre above, and I've written about two other versions, below, in previous posts. This post is called "The Four Marys" in honour of the strip cartoon from "Bunty" magazine and for the other Marys alongside the Virgin Mary:  Mary of Bethany at Scarborough, Mary of Cleopas at Sopworth and Mary Magdalene in both churches. However, I find that I am not particularly interested in the iconography, or the stories that the guidebooks to the churches tell about the artists, possible models and local patrons involved. What I look at is the way that the figures have been inserted into the window shapes and how they contrast with the backgrounds used in each case: richly coloured and geometric at Scarborough, small figures in quite a basic scheme at Beaudesert, popping out of the lancets but with a more sophisticated organisation of the background at Sopworth.

The Mary Window, Sopworth, Wiltshire 1873                                                                  Saints Mary and Michael, Beaudesert 1865

The Mary Window, Sopworth, Wiltshire 1873                                                                  Saints Mary and Michael, Beaudesert 1865

Below, in ascending order of preference, are three shuffled Virgin Marys. What a difference the colour contrasts and patterns used for furnishings and fabrics make to the very same figure whose clothes and lily can be made to join perfectly. The dark iron oxide paint on the later version has lasted much better than the paint recipe that the firm used in its early years.