UNBORN WORD of the day

Mary Sewing: From Swaddling Clothes to Seamless Garment
February 2, 2011, 12:37 am
Filed under: Mother of the Lord, Unborn Jesus

“It goes without saying that in the small kingdom that was the home, the wife was queen….Her importance was all the greater since…a great many things that we buy in shops or factories were produced at home. Cloth, for instance, was spun and woven in the house. ”

“To a large extent clothing was home-made, too: the excellent wife of Proverbs :busies herself with wool and thread, holding the distaff and the spindle.”  Daily Life in the Time of Jesus by Henri Daniel-Rops pp. 150-51, 275

A Pictorial  History of Mary Sewing

The Child Mary Learning to Sew

The Young Virgin, ca. 1632–33, Francisco de Zurbarán

According to medieval legend, as a girl the Virgin Mary lived in the Temple in Jerusalem, where she devoted herself to praying and sewing vestments, the subject of Zurbarán’s painting, executed about 1632–33.

The Girlhood of Mary Virgin by Dante Gabriel Rossetti

“I have represented the future Mother of Our Lord as occupied in embroidering a lily,—always under the direction of St. Anne; the flower she is copying being held by two little angels.” Dante Gabriel Rosetti

Saint Anne and the young Virgin sewing, fresco by the Master of the Bambino Vispo, Museo dell’Opera di Santa Croce

Mary Preparing for Christ’s Birth

Here are a number of paintings where Mary is sewing while she is expecting the Unborn Christ Child – we can imagine that she was sewing His swaddling and baby clothes

Romanesque Spinning Virgin, Catalan Fresco, Museu d’Art de Catalunya, Barcelona

The Virgin at the Spinning Wheel (Hungarian, unknown artist)

Mary In the House Of Elizabeth Robert Anning Bell (sewing baby clothes for John the Baptist)


Mary Spinning with  Joseph before the Birth of Jesus,  Strasbourg, Musee de Notre-Dame I’Oeuvre, inv 1482

Knitting Madonnas

The Virgin is occasionally depicted knitting a garment, thought to represent the seamless garment worn by Christ (John 19:23). This seamless garment that the guards casts lots for beneath the cross was likely given to Jesus as a gift from his mother, since it was customary for Jewish mothers to make such a garment for their sons as a last gift before they entered the world on their own.  Here are 2 representative paintings of this type of Knitting Madonna sewing the seamless garment.

The Holy Family by Ambrogio Lorenzetti, c. 1345

Detail from the right wing of the Buxtehude Altar by Bertram von Minden, 1400-1410


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