Photo by Réunion des Musées Nationaux/Art Resource, N.Y.

The essence of Mary—her purity, learning and compassion—is captured by Flemish artist Rogier van der Weyden in this early-14th-century metalpoint drawing. Neither the canonical gospels nor the extrabiblical Infancy Gospel of James offers a physical description of Mary, but this has not hindered artists since the earliest days of Christianity.