A Guided Encounter

with Picturing Mary


Reflect on both examples of Cosmè Tura’s Madonna and Child.  What do you notice to be similar in both masterpieces?  Notice the hands and posture of Mary and Jesus.  While the Child is peacefully sleeping, he is placed in an almost throne-like setting on the backdrop of Mary.  There is something mildly majestic about the Child which His Mother Mary seems to be pondering in her heart. (Luke 2:19).   No one has contemplated the mysteries of Christ more deeply than Mary.  Mary was the first human being to gaze on the face of Christ and, we can imagine, the first to worship the God made Man and the Word made Flesh. 

Mary truly pondered Christ within her being and offers us a unique example of prayerfulness to follow.  Mary shows us in this painting and terracotta how to be still before the mystery of God.  She illustrates for us how we are to pray to God from our heart.

Let us ask God for the grace to live, in imitation of Mary, the virtue of prayerfulness, so that we may learn to be still in God’s presence, being willing to listen and to talk with Him as a friend.

Living the Encounter

You have encountered genuine beauty today in Cosmè Tura’s masterpieces, Madonna and Child in a Garden, and Madonna and Child. Chose to live your encounter with beauty and share it with others.  Living beautifully is living virtuously.  Reflect upon the virtue of prayerfulness expressed in Mary’s life.  Ask yourself:

How can I create a quiet place in my life where there is spiritual room for the Child Jesus to reign enthroned?  Am I now or can I be still enough so that Jesus could feel at rest in my presence?  Do I find the time to reflect in my heart so that I know what to share with God in prayer?  When I pray, do I speak to God as a friend and try to listen in return?  Take a moment today to be truly silent and allow yourself to confide in Jesus, sharing with Him your hopes, concerns and needs.  Trust Him with your prayers.

Deepen Your Encounter

After you leave the exhibit, return to your encounter with beauty and remember what you learned about the virtue of prayerfulness.  Take a moment to read the Scripture passage from Luke 9:28-36 and reflect upon how you can continue to live your encounter by practicing the virtue of prayerfulness in your life.

You've encountered beauty in Mary and her virtues.  Continue to live your encounter and live beautifully for others.

Inform Your Encounter

Read more about this Reflection from the Catechism:  CCC, nos. 2617, 2618, 2559, 2562, 2564, 2745

Learn more about practicing the virtue of  prayerfulness 

Scripture passages related to the virtue of prayerfulness:  Luke 22:41; 1 Corinthians 14:28; Acts 14:8-18; Philippians 4:4–7; Mark 6:31; Psalm 46:10–11

 Read about saints who practiced the virtue of  prayerfulness: St. Catherine of SienaSt. DominicBl. Elizabeth of the TrinitySt. Hildegard of Bingen

 How is devotion to Mary different from worshiping Mary?
Learn about True Devotion to Mary

Mary’s Unique Role as Intercessor
Scripture Directs Prayer to Mary

Standards/USCCB Doctrinal Elements of a Curriculum Framework for Young People related to this reflection

Mary is the first disciple;  Christ as the Son of Mary, from the moment of the Incarnation (CCC, 486);  Mary and her role in the life and prayer of the Church (CCC, nos. 484-511, 721-726, 963-972, 829);  Universal call to holiness (CCC, nos.826, 2012-2014, 2028, 2045, 2013);  Accepting and living the grace of redemption by practicing the virtues (CCC 1803);   Types of virtue, (CCC, nos. 1804-1832); Prayer in the life of a believer: lectio divina (CCC, nos. 1177, 2708); Jesus Christ reveals the Father to us, who we are, and our call to holiness;  By becoming man, and by his Death and Resurrection, Jesus Christ unites us to God (CCC, nos. 461-464);  We become the free adopted children of the Father through Baptism (Gal 4; CCC, nos. 1265-1270);  The Word became flesh (the Incarnation) (CCC, nos. 525-528, 456-478) to save us by reconciling us with God, who loved us and sent his Son to be the expiation for our sins (CCC, no.457); that we might come to know the depth of God’s love for us (CCC, 458); to be our model of holiness (CCC, no 459); to make us partakers of the divine nature (CCC, nos.457-460);


Cosmè Tura

Madonna and Child in a Garden, ca 1460-70

Tempera and oil on wood panel

21 x 14 5/8 in. (53.4 x 37.2 cm)

National Gallery of Art, Washington, D.C.

Madonna and Child, ca. 1460-70


12 x 8 in. (30.5 x 20.3 cm)

Private collection

View online at the National Museum for Women in the Arts exhibit Picturing Mary: Woman, Mother, Idea

Share your Encounter

What did your encounter bring?   Share your experience and inspirations with others.  #MeetMary

PicturingMary.com is funded by private individuals who support the NMWA exhibit and offer the website materials for visitors to deepen their encounter with Mary as a woman, mother and idea. The reflections were written by a woman religious, Sr. John Paul Maher, O.P., who is a member of the Dominican Sisters of Mary, Mother of the Eucharist.

Elisabetta Sirani, Virgin and Child, 1663; Gift of Wallace and Wilhelmina Holladay. Conservation funds generously provided by the Southern California State Committee of the National Museum of Women in the Arts