Seven SorrowsThe Seven Sorrows of the Virgin are stages during the life of her son, Christ, which caused her pain.
The first is depicted as a literal representation of the prophecy of Simeon about Jesus: 'This child is destined to be a sign which men reject; and you too shall be pierced to the heart' (Luke 2: 34-5). In such images she is shown with seven swords piercing her breast or encircling her head.
The other six 'sorrows' are the Flight into Egypt, Christ disputing with the Doctors, Christ bearing the Cross, the Crucifixion, the Descent from the Cross and the Ascension. The subject of the Seven Sorrows was particularly favoured in northern Europe in the 16th century.
The National Gallery, Trafalgar Square, London WC2N 5DN