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Picturing a World

Marianne Stokes’ Madonna

A post of Marianne Stokes’ Madonna and Child at It’s About Time caught my eye partly for the serene loveliness of the composition, partly for the Crivelli-like use of gold ornamentation, and partly for the date (which is only one year off the setting of my current novel). Marianne Stokes (1855–1927) belonged to the Newlyn art colony, and that’s how I have thought of her. But this lovely picture leads me to widen my appreciation of her work.

The treatment of the Madonna’s bodice shows that she was among the 19th C British artists who revived interest in the 15th C Italian painter Carlo Crivelli. During the years leading up to the First World War, American collectors also avidly sought out his work. This painting sets me thinking about my fictional sisters, Jeanette and Mattie. Jeanette the artist would be aware of Stokes. Mattie in children's publishing? Probably not. Yet maybe Mattie would be drawn to the elaborate decoration in Crivelli’s work if she happened to see examples in New York City. Maybe Jeanette would incorporate some of his ornamentation in her illustrative work. As I have said before, it helps deepen understanding of your characters to think about them in relation to the world outside your plot.

For more about Crivelli, see the Isabella Stewart Gardner website devoted to its major 2015 exhibition of his work, Ornament and Illusion.
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