Carving the face of Our Lady: the Mother of Fair Love

The Christian custom of honoring the Virgin Mary during the month of May is well-known, but few know why this month was chosen to honor the Mother of God.

In ancient Greece the month of May, which brought good weather and the joy of Spring, was dedicated to Artemis, goddess of fertility. This tradition passed to the Roman culture as the month dedicated to Flora, goddess of vegetation.

During the Middle Ages an attachment to the Blessed Virgin began to spread among Christendom, and thus in Spain a popular devotion began to take hold in May, which was also called “month of flowers,” because of the symbolism that existed at the height of spring, when nature is most fruitful and beautiful. By the 17th century, the idea of ​​a month dedicated specifically to the Virgin Mary was already widespread. To this day, events like May Crownings and  pilgrimages to Marian shrines are common among the faithful.

In honor of this Marian month, as well as the recent celebration of Mother’s Day and the centennial of the apparitions of Our Lady of Fatima, I want to share this sculptural group made by Granda Liturgical Arts for the oratory of The Heights School, in Potomac, Maryland, representing the Mother of Fair Love (Mater pulchrae dilectionis) with an adolescent Child Jesus.

Shown here are images of each stage of Granda’s creative process, beginning with one of the conceptual sketches and ending with a photo of the finished work.

This is one of several proposals for the posture and layout of the sculptural group. A conceptual sketch to interpret the client’s vision is always the first step in Granda’s process.

Art and Liturgy - Sketch for Mother of Fair Love statue

For new, custom sculptures, a clay model precedes any carving in wood. In clay, the artist can work and rework the fine details of the statue, but has the opportunity to experiment and “erase” mistakes. Here are the clay models in progress.

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The two figures hand-carved in wood, awaiting painting. The scene shows a teenaged Christ offering a rose to his Blessed Mother. She focuses completely on her Son, while Jesus looks ahead.

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The completed statuary group now stands above the tabernacle in the Chapel of Our Mother of Fair Love at The Heights School.

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Many of the other liturgical furnishings and artworks seen in the final photo were also completed by Granda.

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