Saint Bernard's Vision of the Virgin and Child
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Simon Marmion
French, probably Valenciennes, about 1475 - 1480
Tempera colors and gold on parchment
4 9/16 x 2 1/2 in.

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One day, kneeling before a statue of the Virgin, Saint Bernard (1090-1153) prayed, "Show yourself to be a mother." In response, a few drops of milk from the breast of the statue, a metaphor for the gift of life, fell onto Bernard's lips. This miniature, removed from a devotional book at some point in the past, illustrates that legend. Bernard's words, in Latin, are inscribed in gold above the Virgin's head. The statue of the Virgin and Child seems to come to life before Bernard, a feeling enhanced by the artist's depiction of the Christ child reaching out and grasping Bernard's staff. In addition, the miniature is structured so that the viewer looks over Bernard's shoulder and sees the scene from his perspective. The overall effect is to bring the viewer as close as possible to Saint Bernard's own experience of the miracle.