Memory and Wonder: Our Lady Mary in Ethiopian Painting (15th–18th Centuries)



Representations of the Virgin Mary are among the most important iconographic themes in Ethiopian painting, and stand as testimony to the fundamental theological, devotional and symbolic role the mother of Jesus has played in the construction of Ethiopian religious beliefs, identity and cultural memory. During early Solomonic times (thirteenth-fifteenth centuries) her role was essentially Christological and salvific, as seen in the paintings in Biet Maryam, Lalibela. Perceptions and representations of Mary changed with the extensive theological reforms implemented by King Zara Yaeqob (reigned 1434–1468). With this royal patronage for her cult, Mary’s role as a maker of miracles became predominant and apocalyptic metaphors and narrative gained importance in pictorial representations, such as those in the Lady Meux A manuscript. Her eschatological role continued to evolve until the eighteenth century, when she was portrayed in an icon as a celestial empress.


Fifteenth Century 17th Century Version Cultural Memory Symbolic Role Expressive Gesture 
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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media Dordrecht 1999

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.School of Oriental and African StudiesUniversity of LondonUK

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