Our Lady of Guadalupe Diptych
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The Story of
Lady Of Guadalupe Paintings
On December 9, 1531, on a barren hill called Tepeyac near present-day Mexico City, a beautiful lady appeared to a simple peasant, Juan Diego. The impact of their humble exchange would change the history of Mexico â€“ its reverberations felt throughout the world. The beautiful lady was the holy Mother of God, the Virgin of Guadalupe who asked that a shrine be built on the remote hill of Tepeyac where she could love, help and protect her people, â€œI am your merciful Mother, the merciful Mother of all of you who live united in this land, of all mankind, of all those who love me, of those who cry out to me, of those who seek me, and of those who have confidence in me.â€
Reluctant but obedient, Juan Diego took the Ladyâ€™s message to Mexico City to Bishop-elect Zumarraga who asked for a sign to verify Maryâ€™s request. When Juan Diego returned to the Blessed Mother with the Bishopâ€™s request for a sign, she told him to go to the top of the hill and gather flowers and to wrap them in his cloak (tilma) and present them to the Bishop.
It was on December 12, 1531 that the famous event depicted in these paintings occurred. Juan Diego took the flowers, still wrapped in his peasantâ€™s cloak to present to the Bishop. When Juan Diego opened his cloak, beautiful Castilian roses tumbled out onto the floor revealing a large and beautiful picture of the Lady of Tepeyac Hill. With the Bishopâ€™s help, the astonished Juan Diego untied his tilma and held it up so he could see it. The Bishop knelt down and gazed with wonder into the Blessed Motherâ€™s eyes as she looked down at him with a tender expression of a merciful motherâ€™s love.
The original portrait on the original cactus-fiber tilma still exists today, miraculously surviving almost 500 years on fabric that normally disintegrates after 20 or 30 years. It can be seen today in all its original beauty in the majestic shrine built as the Blessed Virgin requested on Tepeyac Hill near Mexico City.
These two paintings are mirror-images of the same scene â€“ one as seen through the eyes and heart of Mary and the other seen through the eyes and heart of Jesus. In 1955 an amazing discovery was confirmed by an investigative committee examining the tilma. Reflected in the eyes of the Blessed Virgin are 3 figures, seen quite clearly as in any eyes with distortions caused by the curvature of the cornea. One figure is larger and bears a resemblance to the earliest portraits of Juan Diego. The other two are presumed to be Bishop Zumarraga and the interpreter. This reflected image is what the artist used as his pattern for the painting.
The figure of Juan Diego, being the most clear, is followed closely â€“ his face, hand, beard, hat, arm and sleeve. Bishop Zumarragaâ€™s appearance shows him undoubtedly kneeling. This portrait of the Blessed Mother was sent to Bishop Zumarraga specifically in answer to his request for a sign. When she looked into his eyes, he doubtless fell to his knees in humility and reverence.
The third figure in the background was the interpreter who translated Juan Diegoâ€™s Aztec language into Spanish for the Bishop. The artist did a self-portrait for this figure, assuming the role of the translator of this miracle onto canvas for us today.
Maryâ€™s crown is made up of twelve crosses, the cross being the source of her Queenship. The 55 roses at her feet where chosen for their spiritual significance â€“ signifying the 5 Our Fathers and 50 Hail Marys of the rosary. The 40 red roses denote purification, such as the 40 days and nights Moses fasted when he wrote down the words of the Ten Commandments; the 12 yellow roses symbolize the 12 apostles and the 12 tribes of Israel; the 3 purple roses signify the Trinity.
Maryâ€™s Eye of Mercy
In order to capture both the expressions of Juan Diego and the Bishop as well as the beautiful image of Our Lady of Guadalupe, it was necessary to do two paintings and the opportunity to include the source of all glory and mercy, Jesus â€“ The Divine Mercy.
Out of the darkness the merciful light and grace of Jesus lights up the room and our world through our Blessed Mother. Juan Diego, Bishop Zumarraga and the interpreter are not even aware of our Lordâ€™s presence. His merciful light bypasses them and pours through His Blessed Mother.
The particular image of Jesus represented here is â€œJesus â€“ The Divine Mercy,â€ painted in 1934 by Eugene Kazimirowski under the direction of Saint Faustina Kowalska, a Polish religious who was granted a vision of Our Lord on February 22, 1931. Jesus explained to her that He wanted this vision of Himself painted according to the pattern she saw, and explained the meaning of the two rays emanating from His heart, one red, the other pale or colorless.
"The two rays denote Blood and Water. The pale ray stands for the water which makes souls righteous. The red ray stands for the Blood which is the life of souls â€¦."
--from The Diary of St. Faustina.
When Jesus requested this painting to be done of Himself, He asked that 3 words be clearly in evidence: [in Polish] Jezu, Ufam Tobieâ€ (â€œJesus, I Trust in Youâ€). The artist chose to portray these words in the cross as the signature of Jesus. Jesus, as the source of glory, lights up both paintings. From His lanced heart flows the light, which is reflected onto Mary and from her onto Juan Diego, the Bishop, and the world. We are called to receive and proclaim Godâ€™s infinite mercy. We need it, the Church needs it, and the world needs it. Jesus told Faustina, â€œMankind will not have peace until it turns with trust to My mercyâ€*. We are called to respond to His mercy with an outpouring of mercy towards others.