Mother of Mercy
The Virgin of Mercy is a subject in Catholic art, showing a group of people sheltering for protection under the outspread cloak of the Virgin Mary. It was especially popular in Italy from the 13th to 16th centuries, often as a specialised form of votive portrait, and is also found in other countries and later art, especially Catalonia and Latin America. In Italian it is known as the Madonna della Misericordia (Madonna of Mercy), in German as theSchutzmantelmadonna (Sheltering-cloak Madonna), and in French as the Vièrge au Manteau or Vierge de Miséricorde (Virgin with a cloak or Virgin of Mercy).
Usually the Virgin is standing alone, though if angels hold up the cloak she is free to hold the infant Christ. The people sheltered normally kneel, and are of necessity shown usually at a much smaller scale. These may represent all members of Christian society, with royal crowns, mitres and a Papal tiara in the front rows, or represent the local population. The subject was often commissioned by specific groups such as families, confraternities, guilds or convents or abbeys, and then the figures represent these specific groups, as shown by their dress, or by the 15th century individual portraits. Sometimes arrows rain down from above, which the cloak prevents from reaching the people.
Probably the oldest version known is a small panelby Duccio of ca. 1280, with three Franciscan friars under the cloak Here the Virgin sits, only one side of the cloak is extended, and the Virgin holds her child on her knee with her other hand.
"When we were little, we kept close to our mother in a dark alley or if dogs barked at us. Now, when we feel temptations of the flesh, we should run to the side of our Mother in Heaven, by realizing how she is to us, and by means of aspirations. She will defend us and lead us to the light." --St. Josemaria Escriva