Many people are confused about the Immaculate Conception, an event celebrated on December 8th of the Catholic calendar. Contrary to a popular belief, the Immaculate Conception does not refer to Mary's virginal conception of the incarnation of Christ (as was announced to her at the Annunciation, by the Angel Gabriel). The Immaculate Conception refers to Mary's own conception within the womb of her mother St. Catherine. It is said that at the very first moment of her existence Mary was filled by God with sanctifying grace and therefore kept free from the stain of original sin.
The Immaculate Conception (detail), Giovanni Battista Tiepolo, Oil on Canvas, 1767-1769
Paintings of Mary as the Immaculate generally follow traditional iconography depicting her as a young girl in the "flower of her youth". She typically wears a white tunic and a blue mantle surrounded by an oval of sunlight, a crown of stars are above her and she is standing on the moon. Her hands are folded in prayer and she is surrounded by cherubin bearing roses, lilies and palms. She has a vanquished serpent under her feet and a dove flying above her.
David Clayton, Artist-in-Residence at Thomas Moore College, and author of the blog, The Way of Beauty, writes about Venetian painter Giovanni Battista Tiepolo's The Immaculate Conception saying, "Tiepolo is noted for giving his paintings a lightness and airiness that did not exist in those works by artists who worked in the previous century. He has achieved this by using colors in a higher register than many of his 17th century counterparts would have done - more pale blue, bright yellow, and orange for example."
Link to: The Way of Beauty