Somewhere, Beyond the Sea
Vermeer went deep in debt to pay for the blue paint in this painting. Rare and expensive and difficult to make, this pigment was called “ultramarine,” not because it is so “ultra” a color blue, but because it was imported by Italian traders from mines in Afghanistan, “beyond the sea,” not until the 13th century.
New product, new paintings. First in the Middle Ages we start seeing all these detailed Annunciation scenes with the Virgin Mary wearing deep “ultra” blue robes, like this Botticelli gem. But even 200 years later, in Vermeer’s day, this blue color was rare in art – the blue powder, arduously ground from this tough Asian rock, cost more than gold. Artists with patrons itemized what they expected to spend “beyond the sea” and asked for payment in advance.
Mary’s medieval blue symbolized holiness and humility and royalty. But for Pearl Girl– what does that blue turban say to you?
In these weekly devotionals on “Blue” Theology, ocean spirituality and stewardship, I am devoting some weeks to the history of the color blue in art and culture, inspired by my new favorite art book, “Blue: Cobalt to Cerulean in Art and Culture.” Look back to my last week’s post about the small elegant ancient Egyptian blue faience bowl with fish symbolizing new life.
Blue can be a “cool” color. Mary and Pearl Girl are constrained, dignified. But why are more women than men dressed in blue? Does blue signify birth?
In my “Blue” theology it does – we all evolved from the blue ocean, our planet is (75%) blue, 3 of 4 breaths we take come from oxygen created by ocean plants, our own bodies are 75% water, we are blue men and women. When I see blue art I am drawn in and deep - like these women I become still and yet I am transformed.
Somewhere, beyond the sea, somewhere waiting for me, my lover stands on golden sands and watches the ships that go sailing. Blue and still, dignified and deep, waiting for me, my blue lover, beyond the sea.
I write these ocean devotionals every Wednesday morning here and on Facebook. At our Blue Theology Mission Station in Pacific Grove we’ve spent a great week hosting 15 high school youth from a Disciples of Christ and a United Methodist church in Ft. Worth TX. We celebrate God’s gift of blue. Come walk with us, for a service trip or pilgrimage by the sea, any age, group or individual. Bluetheology.com