“Well, isn’t all religions curious? If they weren’t, how would you get anyone to believe in them?” Sean O’Casey – Juno and the Paycock
Rembrandt van Rijn
In this painting, Elizabeth embraces her younger kinswoman – we hear in the Gospel of Luke that at this moment, the child in her womb leaped for joy. The peacock on the left of the painting symbolises Juno, the protectress of pregnant women; in Christian iconography, the peacock is a symbol of resurrection, renewal and immortality. The rosebush is the iconographical image of the Passion of Christ. The light on the two women symbolises the miraculous nature of both women’s pregnancies – as in the paintings of the Resurrection and the supper at Emmaus, Rembrandt uses an eerie supernatural burst of light to illumine the blessed women. It is not clear what the little dog is doing there, but he is very marvellous.
I gleaned some of those facts from this filmed curator’s talk: Rembrandt and the Dutch Golden Age and this talk by the Director of the Detroit Institute of Arts.
Here is an excellent website that allows you to see details of the piece by moving your mouse over the image. Superb.