Marriage of Mary and Joseph, Oldest Image

Q: Where can the earliest image of the marriage of the Virgin be found?

A: The earliest extant representation of Mary's betrothal with Joseph both in East and West are dated around the fifth century. In the Western Church the oldest extant sample can be seen in the museum of Le Puy, France (4/5 C). We are dealing here with the relief of a sarcophagus. It represents the veiled Mary putting her left hand in Joseph's right hand. Behind the figures of Mary and Joseph there is the figure of an angel with halo and scroll, a reference probably to Juno Pronuba appearing in similar representations of classical antiquity to assist the couple and validate their union. The oldest extant example in the Eastern tradition (5c) is to be found in Venice (columns of the tabernacle in San Marco). The image seen here is a painting by Raphael of the Marriage of the Virgin.

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