‘The Visitation’ is a popular biblical image which punctuates western art history from the Byzantine period to the present time through a variety of styles and visual languages.
Painted in 1954, The Visitation is part of a body of work exploring biblical iconography with which Irma Stern was preoccupied at the time. The mode of representation is more akin to Byzantine or Gothic imagery than her other expressionistic or cubist works which she explored simultaneously in the 1950s.
This painting captures the moment when Mary is reunited with her cousin Elizabeth after travelling to Galilee to see her after The Annunciation. During The Annunciation the Angel Gabriel informs Mary of her miraculous conception and the good news regarding Elizabeth’s pregnancy. Elizabeth later gave birth to John the Baptist, a prophet who foretold the arrival of Jesus Christ.
Locked in an embrace, Mary is dressed in symbolic blue robes denoting her holy station as the Mother of God and Elizabeth is clad in green. Both women are crowned with golden halos as a further indication of their divine status. This painting derives its strength from the recurring rhythmic forms in the figures, drapery and halos, the bold palette employed, and the tender emotional bond captured within.