The illustration of the Virgin Mary shows her wearing the typical medieval costume of a long dress with a heavy flowing cloak, in the powerful combination of red and blue. The red - representing Christ's Passion - is tonally particularly vibrant and the blue - associated with the Mother of God as the 'Stella Maris' or Star of the Sea - is a deep azure.
The short, closely fitting tunic in this composition (after Tamara de Lempicka) seems to be a device to draw attention to the young woman herself, and the strong colour is part of that message.
This large red drape, hanging over the edge of the support of St John's figure, is emblemmatic of the martyrdom he will later endure, and hints at his passion and death.
The colour chosen for the dominant figure in Delacroix's Liberty Leading the People (1830) - the female icon of the French revolutionary principle - suggests that she is a beacon for the people to follow through the smoke and fire of battle.
The dress of Mary Magdalene (after Piero della Francesca) signifies in both colour and style the penitence of the reformed courtesan who gave up her worldly life to follow one of sacrifice. The green signifies the rebirth of her soul and the red cloak (now worn as a badge of repentance) tells of her recent worldly career.
The use of drapery here, in a drawing after David Hockney, hints at a sort of protective instinct on the part of the artist, with the bathrobe cosily wrapping round the drowsy young man.
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