The Blessed Virgin Mary is certainly the most recognized woman in history. The tender images of the Madonna and Christ Child have inspired artists across all ages and arts-forms. Most of us are familiar with her conventional depictions in art – fair-skinned, blue-eyed, blonde and cloaked in blue. She is an epitome of virtues that endears to every soul.

However, lesser-known is the contentious representation of the Blessed Virgin called the Black Madonna. We may at once gravitate naturally to question – ‘Why is she black?’ But before we associate faith to colors, let’s understand the background and devotion towards the icon of the Black Madonna of Czestochowa, also known as, Our Lady of Czestochowa.

The painting is executed in tempera on primed canvas. The Blessed Virgin is seen in a standing posture with Christ Child in her arms. She bears an oval face distinguished by a long narrow nose, tiny lips, and deeply expressive eyes. The half-closed eye-lids lend an almost melancholic and contemplative expression to her beautiful face.

The Blessed Virgin gazes at us while pointing to her Son as the source of salvation. This traditional theme was well known in the East and was called ‘Hodegetria’ – meaning – ‘the One Who Shows the Way’. In turn, Christ Child extends his right hand in benediction while in His left hand He holds a closed book symbolizing Wisdom. The fact that the Infant Jesus holds a codex as opposed to the earlier scroll could serve as an indication that the symbol was a later addition.

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