Saturday, February 16, 2013

Miraculous, or not?

I can’t begin to imagine how just many copies of Wayne Weible's first book on Medjugorje have been sold over the years. It’s a classic, and has inspired many thousands of pilgrims to take the road to Medjugorje and respond to the call of Our Lady and her messages.

The cover is also a stopper! But is it really the Blessed Virgin Mary depicted on the front? The straight answer is yes – but not, as many people may suppose, of Our Lady in apparition. And yes, there are stories circulating about how this ‘miraculous’ image appeared mysteriously in some person’s roll of film when it was developed – a nun, I think – after she was present at an apparition. Not surprisingly, there are variations on this story.

I don’t think Wayne holds a precise view on this. From what I understand it was given to him and he felt it would be a suitable image for the cover of his book Medjugorje The Message. He doesn’t claim it to be ‘miraculous’.

The fact that there are differing accounts as to the origin of the image was enough for me to consider that it may not be ‘supernatural’ as believed by some, but perhaps an existing image, tweaked here and there to give the impression of being of another world. Why do all the supposed supernatural images of Our Lady appear blurred, out of focus and mysterious, never sharp and clear?

The image on the cover of Wayne’s book is pretty washed out, high contrast and clipped at the right eye. Is this the full frame or was it cropped by the publisher or designer to fit? It all adds to the mystery. What colour there is is intense: vivid red lips, a hint of blue eyes, and a caucasian skin tone. And, of course, there is the customary head dress. Her eyes are focused on the viewer but the expression is nondescript. The light source is from above and slightly to the left. Notice the direction and length of the shadow formed under the nose; and see how the light falls on the protruding chin.

So if it is not a supernatural image, where did it come from? Who, what or where is the original source?

One of the many benefits of the internet and Google is the ability to search and gather information very quickly, even images. There are thousands of images depicting the Virgin Mary (she must be the most painted female subject in history!) 'Miraculous' Images supposedly of Our Lady captured on camera are never a match for some of the most beautiful and inspired paintings produced over many centuries.

It didn’t take long to discover some images that could possibly match with Wayne’s cover picture, but one stood out in particular – a popular depiction of the Immaculate Heart which I think may have originated as an illustration for a prayer card, possibly out of Italy.

There are some remarkable similarities, particularly the angle of the head, the shape and the folds of the head dress, the light source, the shadow formation, the bud lips, chin highlight and shadow cast under the nose.

Now all that was needed was for some tweaking with the aid of Photoshop. It’s not a major task to manipulate the tones and reproduce the bleached look.

The result was not surprising considering there were so many key points before any modification. There are slight variations, but what has to be taken into account is that the tweaking is performed on two different copies of the same image. And there may have been some additional work done on the image used for Wayne’s book cover, like adding more shadow around the neck. However, the shape and structure is the same and Wayne’s book cover and the manipulated image by my hand is, in my opinion, from the same original source. And that is really what I wanted to demonstrate. To every cow its calf, so to speak.


There is another very similar image in circulation. I don’t know the background to this except it was supposed to have also been used in a book on Medjugorje. I have never seen it published, but a copy of the image was kindly sent to me, a drawing. Now whether it was Wayne’s book cover that inspired the drawing or the prayer card image, I can’t say. But it was certainly produced by hand. Maybe someone knows the answer to this one?

Daniel Miot’s website has an excellent page devoted to technical explanations for many of the ‘miraculous’ images associated with Medjugorje.