Virgin MaryLittle is known about the mother of Jesus Christ from the Bible, in which her role is small after the few references to Christ's childhood. According to Saint Luke's Gospel (1: 26-7) she was a virgin, living in Nazareth, who was betrothed to Joseph at the time of the Annunciation.
Because of her role as the Mother of God she is regarded as an intercessor on behalf of mankind and appears as such in many paintings, particularly at the Last Judgement.
The story of her life has been much embellished and was written by Jacopo da Voragine in the 'Golden Legend', which has provided material for numerous paintings of her life. Her importance in the Church increased steadily during the Middle Ages, when paintings of her Assumption and Coronation became popular. Protestants later objected to her cult status.
The National Gallery, Trafalgar Square, London WC2N 5DN