⁹I'm an artist trying to figure out what Mary really would have looked like supposing she was a real middle eastern Jewish person, because I know nothing about the type of cultural dress or ethnic features in that region at the time.

If anyone can provide me with any historically accurate info or reliable articles/site links I can turn to that would be awesome. Also, if anyone can direct me to reliable info about her ethnic background in detail that would be great too.

I noticed a lot of western art is very inconsistent and likely inaccurate and wanted to see what I could do to make an image that's more close to what she could have looked like. Some sites I found seem to sway one way or another with opinions on her dress, depending on the religion of the person who wrote it so I'm looking for hopefully as unbiased of a perspective as possible, or even multiple perspectives from different viewpoints. I know there's nuance in everything, just hoping someone who knows more than me can help.

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    What did your research show you so far. For example, somehow related: skeptics.stackexchange.com/a/42843 Nov 26, 2021 at 9:40
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    Two related questions.
    – Lucian
    Nov 26, 2021 at 11:50
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    That is, what did you find other than pictures of Italian Jesus.
    – Spencer
    Nov 26, 2021 at 22:29
  • I don't know what you define as a headdress. It is common in very hot dry places to cover the hair, because otherwise it gets full of dust. There is nothing very notable about it.
    – RedSonja
    Dec 3, 2021 at 8:14

1 Answer 1


Some depictions of women have been found in a synagogue and in a church in Dura-Europos, near today's border between Syria and Iraq, and not older than mid-3rd century. They show women with headdresses, but one image that is sometimes assumed to be an image of Mary herself is without headdress.

The catacombs in Rome also have at least one image that is supposed to be of Mary, but it is a bit hard to make out what exactly she is wearing.

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    Anyone using pictures of clothes from today is not going to get a very accurate picture of the clothes worn during the 18th century. Why would third-century images be useful for this purpose?
    – phoog
    Nov 26, 2021 at 22:38
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    Rate of cultural change was much slower prior to the industrial revolution.
    – justCal
    Nov 27, 2021 at 0:47
  • Furthermore, an image of clothes of today would be way more useful to figure 18th century clothes than having no image at all, so a 3rd century image is way better than nothing.
    – Pere
    Nov 28, 2021 at 11:01
  • @justCal though one might mention e.g. codpieces as a counterexample. I think the bigger problem is that different social classes may have dressed differently. E.g. until sixty or so years ago, peasant women would often cover their hair, but urban women would not.
    – Jan
    Nov 28, 2021 at 11:22
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    Not just the social classes, but artists themselves in such a cosmopolitan setting came from different backgrounds. I watched a Yale video on the art from Dura and the lecturer mentioned artists with Persian background depicting people with pants, while the western tradition artists just showed robes. Fascinating place, by the way. Thanks for bringing it up.
    – justCal
    Nov 28, 2021 at 13:45

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