Celebrating the Immaculate Conception

Date of Exhibit October 18 - November 12, 2004

On December 8, 1854, Blessed Pius IX declared as a dogma of faith that the Blessed Virgin Mary, from the moment of her conception, was by a singular grace of God never subject to the stain of original sin. This privilege, given to the one who would become the Mother of the world’s Redeemer, is termed her Immaculate Conception. 

This year marks the 150th anniversary of Pius IX’s declaration. To celebrate this event, the Marian Library has mounted an exhibit of illustrations centered on this dogma, illustrations taken from several of the emblem books in its holdings.

 The Art of Emblems

In an article in The Dictionary of Art, Jochem Becker explains: “The emblem book was an artistic genre that flourished in Europe particularly in the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries, though it continued beyond this. An emblem combines both words and images, whose interpretation requires intellectual effort and results in the communication of a moral lesson.  

"Emblems generally consist of three parts:

1) a pictorial representation (pictura),

2) a short, often classical motto (inscriptio), and

3) the explanation of the link between them (subscriptio).”

  Book Illustrations

Most of the emblems (twenty-seven) selected are from a book by the Benedictine Joseph Zoller (d. 1750), a monk of the monastery of Sts. Udalricus and Afra, near Augsburg, Germany. This work, entitled Cconceptus Chronographicus De Concepta Sacra Deipara, was published at Augsburg in 1712. It consists of hundred copperplate engravings all centered on the Immaculate Conception. Each of the emblems is interpreted in seven steps: Sacred Scripture, authority (quotations from ecclesiastical writers), ratio (reasonableness of the belief), an example from history, the symbol (the emblematic picture itself), an example from antiquity, and finally an anagram.

The other emblems (seven) are from the work of a Belgian Augustinian, Johann Leenheer. Printed in 1681 (no place of publication indicated), the small book bears the title: Virgo Maria Mystica Sub Solis Imagine Emblematica Expressa. The seven emblems are all involved with the sun. The text accompanying each emblem is a short poem given in both Latin and Dutch. Click on the first seven numbers at the bottom and they will show you the picture and text.

  A Special Thank-You

The emblems were reproduced, remastered, and framed by SPORCH—The Society for the Preservation of Roman Catholic Heritage. (Visit the SPORCH website at www.sporch.org.) The exhibit runs from October 18 through November 12 in The Marian Library Gallery.   

Click on each number to see a large version of each emblem picture.


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