Virgin Mary holding lillies

Maria Virgo

Maria Virgo, 1915
May Louise Greville Cooksey (1878–1943)
Oil on Board
BORGM 00535
Image © Russell-Cotes Art Gallery and Museum

Main Hall  Pre-Raphaelite 

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Maria Virgo

The painting shows a medieval style portrait of a woman, Maria Virgo or the Virgin Mary, with a halo around her thinly veiled head and some lilies in her hand. The title appears in the top left corner of the image in a medieval style script. The Annunciation Lily signifies Divine Love. The three fully opened blooms represent the Trinity: God the Father, God the Son and the Holy Spirit.

This painting was exhibited at the Royal Academy in 1915. It was inspired by May’s conversion to Catholicism in 1899. She also produced a number of devotional paintings and altarpieces for churches in Liverpool.

May Cooksey was born in Birmingham and studied at both the Leamington School of Art, and at Liverpool School of Art where she was awarded several silver and gold medals. She then went on to study at the South Kensington School of Art in London where she won silver and bronze medals for her work. A travelling scholarship allowed her to visit Italy. When she returned to London she took a teaching position as art mistress at the South Kensington School.

She exhibited on a regular basis at the Royal Academy, the Glasgow Institute of Fine Art and the Walker Art Gallery in Liverpool. Later in life she lived at Freshfield in Lancashire where she was a member of the Liverpool Academy of Arts. Working in watercolour in the Pre-Raphaelite style she was known as an ecclesiastical artist as well as a landscape and figure painter and etcher. She converted to Catholicism in 1899. Cooksey never married.


  • Virgin Mary holding lillies

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