St. Anne and the Virgin Mary

Circa 1817
Palatine Chapel, Palermo, Sicily.

Unlike most modern representations of the pair, Anne is not shown teaching the young Mary to read. Instead, she engages the viewer's eye and points away from the child to Heaven. The circle of stars behind Mary's head is from the iconography of the Immaculate Conception.

The saint on the right is Sebastian, identified by the Greek inscription. The small cross in his left hand is from Orthodox iconography and signifies that the saint was a martyr. He holds his right hand in the blessing gesture also common in Orthodox images of saints: palm-out with the middle and ring fingers held together.

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Read more about St. Anne.
Read more about the young Mary
Read more about the Immaculate Conception.
Read more about St. Sebastian.

Photographed at the chapel by Richard Stracke, shared under Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike license.