Bridging Heaven and Spain: The Virgin of Mercy from the Late Medieval Period to the Age of Exploration
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The Virgin of Mercy is a Marian devotional image type recognizable by its portrayal of Mary protecting the faithful with her cloak. This thesis situates the iconography of painted panels within their historical and cultural context in Spain from the late medieval period to the Age of Exploration. I explain the image's origins and introduce its various versions, focusing on three major frequently commissioned subtypes: the Sponsorship of the Virgin, plague commissions, and the Mercedarian's Virgin of Mercy. I present a case study of one famous version of the type, the Virgin of the Navigators, and focus on the Spaniards and Amerindians beneath the cloak, situating them in relation to the historic debate that called into question the very humanity of the peoples of the Americas. The thesis explores the painting's possible statement the patrons may have been making through the artistic treatment of both groups.