We live in a frenetically visual society bombarded by images, many of which may be called ‘icons’ as they represent objects and / or ideas instantly recognisable to us. These visual cues evoke an emotional response, usually in terms of what we buy or eat, or the brand of clothes we wear. They range from the unequivocal Coca-Cola sign to quite insidious advertisements that remain effective simply by association. In the same way we absorb these messages as consumers, so we assimilate more covert directions relating to who we are, our aspirations and the roles we play in society.

There is one such ‘perfect’ woman, the enduring cultural construct that is The Blessed Virgin Mary. With scant New Testament or historical evidence, she became the archetype by which Western women have been judged for centuries.