Femina | Luca Shaw + The Marian Consort

Published: 18th August 2020

Carlo Gesualdo is responsible for some of the most disturbingly enrapturing music ever created; the man himself represents the very worst of patriarchal society, escaping double murder without punishment. Whilst the music pleads to the Virgin Mary in heaven to act as intercessor, Luca’s response seeks to bring her within reach of us down below, whilst elevating her physical form as life giver.

Animation by Luca Shaw

Music by Carlo Gesualdo, performed by The Marian Consort

Luca writes: “This is pretty much a dream brief I must say – I’ve been working with how to bring the image of the Virgin Mary back down to earth and into the flesh as opposed to an ethereal realm held up by a patriarchal society. I’ve been using the motif of the candle to do this and the animation moves through various bits of symbolism and imagery around the female body, physicality, penetration and the idea of ‘light’ and ‘life giver’.”

Carlo Gesualdo was a Prince, composer, and murderer. He is remembered chiefly today for the eccentricities of both his life and of his surviving musical compositions. The former in particular have captured the imagination of generations of biographers and admirers, and no single event has served to inform perceptions of the Renaissance nobleman and his music more powerfully than the gruesome murder of his first wife, Maria D’Avalos, and her lover, Fabrizio Carafa.

Lyrics (Anon., 12th century):

Ave Regina caelorum, ave domina angelorum: salve, radix sancta, ex qua mundo lux est orta: Gaude Virgo gloriosa, super omnes speciosa, vale, valde decora, et pro nobis semper Christum exora.

Hail, Queen of heaven, hail, mistress of the angels: hail, holy root, from which sprung the light of the world: Rejoice, glorious Virgin, beautiful above all others, hail, most honoured, and ever pray to Christ for us.

Luca Shaw is a Manchester based visual artist with a memorable aesthetic of bold, abstract-figurative shape and an illusive focus on intimate and personal storytelling. She engages phenomenologically with themes such as the body, spaces, gender and mental health. Her work finds a home across multiple platforms including print, illustration, animation and most notably – theatre. She has produced work for musicians such as Anna McLuckie, organisations such as Creative Industries Trafford, Tide Press, Cōnfingō Publishing and most recently created a series of vivid, hand painted animations that set the backdrop for the touring production ‘What Happened to Agnes’ as part of the creative team Ulita, produced by Opera North. Find out more here.

This video forms part of a new series of visual arts collaborations commissioned by The Marian Consort and supported by Arts Council England.


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