I was rereading the Wikipedia entry for the Catholic Church. On several occasions I have defended the company, and I wanted to test my defense. In the process I found a painting I wanted to better understand. It is in the section titled, “Sexual morality.”
Here is a partial quotation from that section:
The Catholic Church calls all members to practice chastity according to their state in life. Chastity includes temperance, self-mastery, personal and cultural growth, and divine grace.
It requires refraining from lust, masturbation, fornication, pornography, prostitution, and rape. [My reaction to the last word was surprise because it seemed so obvious as to not have required a mention.]
Chastity for those who are not married requires living in continence, abstaining from sexual activity; those who are married are called to conjugal chastity. [Footnote 425]
Footnote 425 Catechism of the Catholic Church (2nd ed.). Libreria Editrice Vaticana. 2019. Paragraph 2332. Sexuality affects all aspects of the human person in the unity of his body and soul. It especially concerns affectivity, the capacity to love and to procreate, and in a more general way the aptitude for forming bonds of communion with others.
Next to the Wikipedia section is a painting by Hans Memling, Allegory with a Virgin.
This is the painting I wanted to better understand.
The analysis of the painting is copied from Web Gallery of Art, online since 1996 and created by Emil Krén and Daniel Marx. I thought it was so good that I have reproduced it in its entirety.
“This rather enigmatic painting has been studied in depth recently, enabling us to venture a more solidly based judgment regarding both its authenticity and the significance of the representation. It should be noted at the outset that the topmost part of the landscape has been entirely overpainted and can thus form no part of the interpretation. The rock with the virgin and the lions is, however, still in a fairly good, original condition.
“A young woman is shown standing in a giant piece of amethyst. She is wearing a violet-brown Burgundian dress, and her hands are crossed level with her lap on a point of the crystal. This characteristically chaste pose is further emphasized by her downward gaze. Two lions, with golden shields attached to their bodies, stand threateningly on either side of a small stream that springs from the rocks and carries gemstones and coral in its current.
“Because of its colour, amethyst is associated with the violet, the emblem of humility and virginity. The lions are clearly intended as guards, and so their shields are military rather than heraldic in function. The spring represents the Water of Life, and the gemstones are a reference to Paradise. The image can thus be interpreted as an allegory of the strength of Virginity or Purity, which leads to eternal life. The city in the left distance is influenced to a large extent by the Brussels St Sebastian. This may be attributed almost certainly to the restorer.”
Artist: Hans Memling (circa 1433 –1494), oil on oak wood
Museum: Musée Jacquemart-André collection
Photographer: Web Gallery of Art
Public domain. This photographic reproduction is therefore also considered to be in the public domain in the United States. In other jurisdictions, re-use of this content may be restricted; see Reuse of PD-Art photographs for details.