German artist, Johann Georg Melchior Schmidtner (1625-1707) gave us the devotional painting of Mary, Undoer of Knots. It was commissioned by the grandson of a couple whose marriage had been on the brink of divorce, but was saved with the help of Mary under this title. This is my version based on the same composition as Schmidtner’s painting.
Mary is shown untangling a wedding ribbon used in a custom known as handfasting in which a ribbon is wrapped around the clasped hands of the betrothed couple. The knotted ribbon is handed to Mary by one angel and is received untangled by another angel. The knots symbolize the many problems threatening marriages: infidelity, addictions, discord, domestic violence, verbal abuse, selfishness, greed, etc.
Mary wears the colors that depict her as queen of earth and queen of heaven, where she is followed by her angels. Moreover, the red of love and the blue of harmony relate to the contentment of a good marriage. She is crowned with twelve stars (Rev 12:1) and crushes the head of the knotted serpent under her feet (Gen 3:15). Through the grace given to her by the Holy Spirit, shown in the form of a dove, she untangles the knots with her loving hands.
At the bottom of the painting is a detail of the Archangel Raphael leading Tobias to his wife Sarah, further linking the painting to marriage, and to overcoming any obstacles in marriage such as the case with Tobias (Book of Tobit).
Sin causes knots in marriage and family life. "The knot of Eve’s disobedience was loosed by the obedience of Mary" (St Irenaeus, 130-202 AD). Let us ask Mary, Undoer of Knots, to intercede for us, that through her hands God may resolve all troubled marriages.