Beyoncé, the Virgin Mary, and the Power of Imagery

by: Ellen C. Caldwell
for JSTOR Daily

Beyoncé and Jay Z announced her pregnancy with now-iconic photographs taken in collaboration with artist Awol Erizku. More recently, she thrilled the Bey hive with birth-announcement photographs composed in the same vein, taken by Mason Poole and posted on Instagram.

Beyoncé and her photographers appear to present her as the Virgin Mary, using recognizable compositions, such as her veiled face and the flower mandorla enveloping her, in both Erizku’s and Poole’s images. The Atlantic’s Spencer Kornhaber wrote, “Beyoncé is continuing in her long dialogue with the high-art world,” noting such varied influences as the Virgin Mary, Our Lady of Guadalupe, Renaissance Madonnas, Dutch flower paintings, and Kehinde Wiley. Part of the power in such imagery, he argues, is that “it’s recent and yet classical.”

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