Our Lady of Guadeloupe
Josephine Armstrong Stewart-Original owner
Texas, United States of America
89 x 45 x 5.6 cm
The Collection of Oak Alley Foundation, Donation of Josephine Stewart, Foundress of Oak Alley Foundation
“Big House” exhibit
This well-known image depicts Our Lady of Guadeloupe, a specific version of the Blessed Virgin Mary. The story follows Juan Diego, a simple, Mexican farmer. Early morning on December 9, 1531, as he made his way home from mass, Juan was greeted by a vision of the Blessed Mother and instructed to convince the local Aztec bishop to build a shrine in her honor that would allow her to “give all my love, compassion, help, and protection to the people.” The bishop was disinclined to follow the instructions and turned Juan Diego away. A second time the vision appeared to him and again he was turned away. At their third meeting, the Blessed Mother instructed Juan to pick roses from atop a hill and bring to the bishop as proof, but it was December and Juan didn’t understand how there would be any roses to pick. Having faith, however, Juan did as he was told, found the flowers as predicted, and brought them to the bishop. Upon opening his tilma (cloak) to present the flowers to the bishop, Juan discovered that an image had been painted on the inside, the same image that is seen here of the Blessed Mother. The hill where the flowers were picked still holds a church and shrine dedicated to Our Lady of Guadeloupe today. December 12, the day Juan Diego succeeded in his task is a Holy Day of Obligation in Mexico and a feast day worldwide for people of the Catholic faith.
The iconography of this image is dense and detailed. As common with all iconography of the Blessed Virgin, she is seen with a blue robe, a symbol of immortality, royalty, and natural forces. It is dusted with stars translating that she is Queen of Heaven. In 1983, astrological research proved that the alignment of the stars on her robe match the exact placement as they were on December 12, 1531 just before dawn. Her rose/pale red dress depicts the color of dawn and the beginning of a new era. The gown hosts the images of the flowers Juan Diego picked early that morning. Her down cast eyes show her as a humble and loving mother. Beneath her feet, the crescent moon depicts the triumph over Aztec gods while the angel supporting her depicts her royalty. Last, but not least, the aura of surrounding light relates to Revelations 12:1, “A great sign appeared in heaven: a woman clothed with the sun, with the moon under her feet and a crown of twelve stars on her head.”