The 50-50-90 rule: Anytime you have a 50-50 chance of getting something right, there's a 90% probability you'll get it wrong.
Question #31244 posted on 12/08/2006 3:01 a.m.

Dear 100 Hour Board,

Why is Mary, Christ's mother, always wearing blue?

- Trying to find a good nativity picture to send to some missionary friends.

A: Dear Trying,

From Laura Ling's article on the portrayal of the Virgin Mary in Medieval manuscripts:
The Virgin Mary, or Madonna is portrayed in a variety of recurring symbolic themes throughout religious documents in the Middle Ages. The color of her robes is symbolic. Mary is shown wearing a dark blue mantle starting around 500 A.D. This blue is Byzantine in origin and is considered the color of an empress. Blue is also indicative of sapphires and the skies. Red was also a popular color to represent Mary beginning in the 10th century and by the 14th century she was often portrayed wearing a red mantle instead of a blue one. The color red is symbolic of nobility, suffering and passion. The classical representation of Mary is with a red robe and a blue mantle.
At a time when most church members were largely illiterate, it was especially important to use consistent symbolism in religious art so that those who saw the painting could recognize the figures and situation without being able to read any accompanying text.

- Katya
A: Dear Good Luck ~

First, one of my teachers was talking about nativity scene Christmas cards today. But not due to color—rather, due to ages. Back in the day of Mary and Joseph, girls got married when they were around 12-14. Yet, our Christmas cards all show Mary as being more around the lines of 20. He said that one day he would really like to get a Christmas card with Mary portrayed as a Mia Maid. So, if anyone is a good artist and would be willing to make a Christmas card showing Mary as a Mia Maid for me, I would be willing to exchange a plate of brownies for it. Trust me—they're good brownies.

Second, if you go to the MOA, they have an exhibit up based around the life of Christ. At the very beginning of the exhibit are the pictures of the Annunciation. The very first one on your right is filled with symbolism of all sorts. When I went to see it, there was a nice museum tour guide there telling anyone who would listen about the symbolism in the paintings and of things to look for from then on. One of those things is the color of Mary's robe. She is, indeed, often portrayed in red and blue. I couldn't really remember what she said about it, but my roommate says it's because she's the Queen of Heaven. (Going along with Katya's empress answer.) However, if you want to know more, I would suggest going to the exhibit yourself and asking that nice lady. Actually, whether you want to know or not, I would suggest going to that exhibit. It's really amazing.

~ Dragon Lady