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Joannes Richter The Stuppach Madonna (German: Stuppacher Madonna) is a 1514 - 1519 painting of the Madonna and Child by the German Renaissance painter Matthias Grünewald. Of course the Madonna has been painted with brighter (red, purple and blue) colors as displayed on the image. At the end of the Middle Age the rainbow of course is to be considered as a religious symbol. A double rainbow even signifies both rainbows as attributes to God (who may be identified in a swarm of angels at the top left position of the paining) and to the Madonna with her child Jesus.
Fig. 1: The Stuppach Madonna by Matthias Grünewald
part of a collection of reproductions compiled by The Yorck Project licensed under the GNU Free Documentation License
Strange as it may seem the double rainbow has not been drawn the correct way. The colors red and blue have been ordered in a particular way, which contrary to physics have been rearranged to fit the symbolic meaning. The inner rainbow has been drawn with a red banner at the inside, immediately followed by the blue banner, which should be located at the outside borderline of the rainbow. The blue banner is broader than the red banner, which may indicate to attribute the blue symbol to the adult Mother Mary and the tiny red banner to the male child. According to the laws of physics the red band should be at the upper side 1 of the primary rainbow, which obviously has been ignored by the painter - probably to associate the red (male) symbol to the child Jesus.
Fig. 2: Red and blue banners located close together at the main rainbow These red and blue banners as close neighbors are oriented at the side of the Madonna and Jesus, and suggest to consider these symbolic colors as attributes to the saints. The upper rainbow is a secondary rainbow, which should reveal a reversed sequence of the colors. The secondary rainbow however is barely identifiable and has only be painted exactly between the Madonna and God in the sky. Probably the same red & blue tapes have been oriented at the side of the divine Being. Grunewald's Stuppacher Madonna therefore probably signifies that the rainbow's red & blue colors are the main medieval symbols in the rainbow's symbolism.
1 See samples at the source: Rainbow
Improvement of analysis reveals the rainbows' structure better from printed medium:
Fig. 3: Red and blue banners located close together at the main rainbow
Fig. 4: Secondary rainbow
The third and fourth Rainbows (?)
The ultimate information is found in the (two ?!) rainbows or nimbus-circles crowning the divine, probably solar image of God. This or these rainbows respectively nimbus-circles may only be seen in a good photograph from an art-book or close inspection of the artwork itself. The rainbow crowning God is a purple image, which may symbolize a mixture of male red and female blue, resulting in an androgynous symbolism. The adjacent secondary (purple/blue) rainbow is hardly visible at all. In the lower right corner of this detail photograph the upper secondary rainbow for the Madonna & Child may be seen as a curved segment of the rainbow.
Fig. 5: God, surrounded with one or two purple/blue (?) rainbows