St. Roch Asking the Virgin Mary to Heal Victims of the Plague
In St. Roch Asking the Virgin Mary to Heal Victims of the Plague by Jacques Louis David St. Roch is seen kneeling amidst the agony of the Plague’s various victims. Below Mary sit three figures, two of which are clearly in pain and desperate for her help. These two, the woman and young boy, have faces of despair and they cling to each other in their suffering. The man in front however, seems resigned to his fate; he looks not up at Mary but straight ahead. His hand is placed, palm up, on his lap in a sign of defeat, and his face holds an expression which seems to almost challenge the viewer. Above him St. Roch begs Mary for her help, his cheeks pink with strain. Interestingly, his pink cheeks exactly mirror those of baby Jesus who sits in Mary’s arms. In fact, their overall positions are completely parallel, both depicted from the side with their faces turned up towards Mary. Their interaction with the Virgin Mother, however, is in stark contrast. Jesus holds Mary’s face in a loving, almost playful way, while St. Roch turns toward her in desperation and terror. Mary’s reaction to St. Roch’s plea, with her finger pointing in accusation, seems contradictory to the love she and Jesus share. However, the analogous position of Jesus and St. Roch suggests that despite the seemingly disapproving finger, Mary’s treatment of St. Roch will ultimately be equivalent to her treatment of Jesus. Christ, in His mirroring of St. Roch seems to be interceding for him, calling on his mother to give St. Roch her love and aid, just as she gives it to Him as she holds Him closely in her arms.