Made in the classical style, the painting of Mary Who Unties Knots was seemingly painted in 1700 by Johann Melchior Schmidter. It is exposed in the Church of St Peter an Perlach in Augsburg, Germany. It is still visible there, and is the object of a local devotion.
It was inspired by a quote from Saint Irenaeus: “By her disobedience, Eve tied a knot of misfortune for the human race; on the contrary, by her obedience, Mary untied it …” The painting depicts Mary according to the description given of her in the Apocalypse of St John (Rev:12): “A great sign appeared in the sky, a woman clothed with the sun, the moon under her feet, and upon her head a crown of twelve stars”.
Each pictogram explains one of these symbols. Click on each symbol to find out their meaning !
The woman of the Apocalypse
The Virgin Mary is standing between Heaven and the Earth to signify her place between God and men. Her tilted head indicates that her right ear is attentive to the Word of God, while her left ear inclined to the earth is attentive to the supplications of men.
This artpiece reveals a very tender and fundamental detail: Mary Who Unties Knots is pregnant. Under her right arm and cloak one can see her swollen belly. The color of her dress, which is red, means that childbirth is near: Jesus is about to be born.
This is probably the only image giving to see that Mary is working actively “with her hands”; that her work is not just of a spiritual nature, but also of a practical nature. Noticing the long ribbon unwound by the Virgin, popular devotion gave her the name “Maria Knottenlöserin”, literally “Mary, who unties knots.”
Angels, in great numbers, are praying. One of them holds up for Mary the ribbon all tied up with knots. Those symbolize our sins and daily difficulties.
Another angel shows the ribbon after the knots were untied by Mary; turned to the viewer, he seems to say, “See what She can do. You too should have faith.”
More explanations on the symbols and meditations relative to the painting are included in the booklet “Mary Who Unties Knots – Novena”.