The commentary of the cover

The Tenderness and the Glory by Pierre-Marie Dumont

This beautiful stained glass was most probably executed by the German Master of the Housebook (also known as the Master of the Amsterdam Cabinet) who, along with Schongauer (c. 1448–1491), was the brilliant precursor of Dürer (1471–1528). We see here the Virgin Mary in all her human tenderness and in all her familiar guise, yet transfigured, fully radiant in timeless splendor.

Though its given title is the Virgin of the Apocalypse, it borrows only two attributes of the woman as described in Revelation (12:1-2): she is clothed with the sun, in a stylization that would ­become traditional, and with the moon under her feet. On the other hand, the divergences are many: the twelve stars are replaced by a lovely royal crown with leaves of pure gold; Mary and Jesus bear haloes (cruciform for Jesus); and, above all, while the woman of the Apocalypse is said to wail in pain as she labored to give birth, this Mary peacefully cradles in her arms her Son who is already a little toddler with a turned-up nose. Here we must pause to admire the exquisite humanity of their very individual faces, and to meditate upon the tender love expressed in the gaze between Mother and Child. What a contrast to the refulgence of divine glory witnessed in the brilliant gold of the crown, of the haloes, and the hair! And, even more so, in the powerful rays of sun ripping through the ­darkness and mirrored in this crescent moon that serves as the footstool of the Mother of God!

How could this master glassmaker express the eternal ­fulfillment of the human being according to the creative and re-creative will of the Father? In the loving gaze a Mother and her Son—who is also her Lord and her God!—are sharing? Or in a display of the ­celestial glory that surrounds them, bears them up, and ­transfigures them? It was necessary to represent both, together, to convey a hint of the ineffable.


Virgin of the Apocalypse, Circle of the Master of the ­Amsterdam Cabinet (German, active c. 1470–1490), The Cloisters ­Collection, Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York, N.Y. Photo: ­Public Domain.