One of my favourite images of Our Lady is the poster ‘Our Lady of London’ which was designed in 1935 by Martin Travers. I took this photo of it from a surviving copy hanging in a Nottinghamshire church. Our Lady has twelve stars around her head and is set in a crescent moon, superimposed against the sun, holding the Blessed Infant. Below is the sillouhette of the London skyline and St Paul’s cathedral against a dusky sky. It is a striking image.
The iconography of Our Lady and the crescent moon isn’t particularly unusual. The iconographical elements are all based on the vision of the woman in Revelation 12: 1. Usually Our Lady is standing or sitting on the moon. Albrecht Durer produced a woodcut of the Virgin and Child with all of these and it bears a striking resemblance to Travers’ work. Except that Our Lady and the Infant are set on the crescent moon, rather than in it.
There is more. Among my collection of oddments at home, I have a small pewter pilgrim badge dating from the later part of the Middle Ages, which I bought it from an antiquities dealer in the mid 1990s. This tiny badge had been found on the foreshore of the river Thames, where I understand they have been found in their hundreds. The badge itself is believed to have been a pilgrim souvenir obtained during visit to the shrine of Our Lady of the Pew, an image of the Virgin and Child set in a chapel in the north Ambulatory of Westminster Abbey. Like the Travers image, on the pilgrim badge, Our Lady is set in rather than on the crescent moon. So I wonder – as well as seeing the Durer woodcut, had Martin Travers also seen a copy of this pilgrim badge? Was his design and the choice of this form of the Virgin and Child, based on this London connection with the cult of Our Lady of the Pew?