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Imago Dei: Expectant Mother Painting

painting by Michelle Arnold Paine entitled "Imago Dei" of a pregnant woman in front of a mirror

“Imago Dei”, Oil on Canvas 22″ x 16″ ©Michelle Arnold Paine

Mirror Image

This painting “Imago Dei” invites us to contemplate man created in the image of God. The image of God is present in the unborn child, as it was in Adam and Eve, in Mary, and in each one of us. In Genesis 1:27 the author tells us that God creates man and woman “in the image of God.” The woman’s reflection in the mirror is a metaphor for woman created in the image of God. She and the child within her reflect the glory of God just as a mirror reflects light.

As with the other paintings in this series I began by working with a model. My model was pregnant during this time after a three year struggle with infertility.

Working with a Pregnant Model

We worked within the limitations of her pregnant body with short poses to create several studies in walnut ink. We experimented with several short poses varying the way the woman interacted with the mirror. However, at this stage in my model’s pregnancy, she could not stand more than 10 -15 minutes at a time. I only needed few minutes drawing each pose to search for it. At the end of the day the beautiful diagonals in this drawing clearly gave this  pose the most potential to become a painting.

Walnut Ink drawing by Michelle Arnold Paine of a pregnant woman in front of a mirror. Title: "Imago Dei"

Imago Dei Study, Walnut Ink on Paper, 14″ x 20″. ©Michelle Arnold Paine

In the pose that I finally selected for this painting the expectant mother reflects on her changing body and the life inside it. She likely also reflects on the fears and doubts that accompany a first pregnancy. As the days move quietly forward there is a grave expectation for the day in which life will never be the same.

Mary the Mirror

This painting is a new interpretation of the line from “Mary the Mirror, Christ the vision blest”, from the medieval hymn “Mary the Dawn. Fifteen years ago, while researching imagery of Mary, I discovered this medieval hymn. The catalogue of the exhibit entitled “Divine Mirrors: The Virgin Mary in the Visual Arts” at the Davis Museum of at Wellesley College reprinted it as its epigraph. Discovering this work  catapulted forward my investigation into a contemporary representation of Marian imagery.

I have explored the  imagery of the mirror  from the hymn as a metaphor for Mary in previous artworks. I’ve deepened my reflection on “Mary the Mirror” by representing her carrying New Life.The mirror is a clear reference to the creation of Adam and Eve in Genesis. Hebrews 1:3 says  the Son “reflects the glory of God and bears the very stamp of his nature”.

However, it is not only the Son who reflects God glory, but every human being. This refers back to Genesis in which Adam and Eve are created in the image and likeness of God. John of Damascus elaborated on this idea by referring to Mary as “the chosen mirror.” She reflected God’s glory, made in the image of God (Sermon III).