Carl Heinrich Bloch, 1866
In 1865, Carl Heinrich Bloch was commissioned to create twenty-three paintings depicting the life of Jesus Christ. The works, rendered in oil on copper, took fourteen years to complete. They were installed in the King’s Oratory within the Frederiksborg Castle and still reside there today.
The Meeting of Mary and Elisabeth was often extolled as being the best of the twenty-three paintings. Mary is dressed in the traditional red gown and blue mantle, signifying that she is Queen of Heaven. In this painting, she is crowned with a disc-shaped halo, whereas in the previous painting of The Annunciation, she is not, emphasizing that now the holy conception has taken place. A pot of lilies on the stone newel post heralds Mary’s presence and symbolizes her purity. Bloch’s competent handling of paint to create texture and three-dimensional space is seen in the rough surface of the stone wall, pillars, and steps – and also in Mary’s diaphanous veil.
“And Mary arose in those days, and went into the hill country with haste, into a city of Juda; And entered into the house of Zacharias, and saluted Elisabeth. And it came to pass, that, when Elisabeth heard the salutation of Mary, the babe leaped in her womb; and Elisabeth was filled with the Holy Ghost: And she spake out with a loud voice, and said, Blessed art thou among women, and blessed is the fruit of thy womb. And whence is this to me that the mother of my Lord should come to me? For, lo, as soon as the voice of thy salutation sounded in mine ears, the babe leaped in my womb for joy. And blessed is she that believed: for there shall be a performance of those things which were told her from the Lord. And Mary said, My soul doth magnify the Lord, And my spirit hath rejoiced in God my Saviour. For he hath regarded the low estate of his handmaiden: for, behold, from henceforth all generations shall call me blessed. For he that is mighty hath done to me great things; and holy is his name.” – Luke 1: 39 – 49