The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints has used a 1650s painting by Carlo Maratta as part of its Christmas messaging over the last few years. The image has been used on social media and on free digital downloads to members. Recently, some online viewers realized the original painting by Maratta may have been digitally altered. Angels had been removed and the neckline of Mary’s dress had been modified. You can see the comparison below.
Gordon Monson wrote in an opinion piece, “Nothing wrong with respecting women; nothing wrong with modesty, but when the church drapes a shirt over the Virgin Mary in classic art, eliminating the slightest bit of cleavage, what exactly does that do? It draws more attention to that form, sexualizes it, even in a rendering that depicts the mother of the Lord in complete innocence, adoring her newborn.”
However, Marratta completed multiple versions of this same painting. One known as “The Virgin laying the sleeping Christ on Straw” shows garments by the original artist more closely resembling those in the Church’s altered rendering. There are also no angels in this portrait.
No representatives of the Church have commented on the matter, nor has any background information been provided on which paintings were used to create the final images posted by the Church.
Here are similar works by Maratta, reproductions of the painting, and the places they are located.