At the church where I work on the weekends we recently recovered a beautiful stone statue of St. Anne and the Blessed Mother.
They are in a typical teaching and learning pose: Anne and Mary, who is perhaps eight or ten years old, are both looking at a scroll that Mary is holding. On the scroll are the Roman numerals I through VII. So the question has arisen among us: what do these numbers represent?
The first proposal was that St. Anne was teaching Mary about the Ten Commandments. But then why do the numbers only go up to seven? Well, maybe the rest are on the other side of the scroll. Seems unlikely to me.
The second suggestion was that Mary was learning about the seven deadly sins. Mary would have had to have learned about sins through "book learning," as the normal manner of learning about sin, through experience, was unavailable to her. Alas, though, there was no list of seven deadly sins when Mary was a little girl, so I think this proposal is out.
In a brilliant execution of the principle of ontological economy, one parishioner suggested that Mary was simply learning how to count to seven. Clever, but not religious enough, methinks.
My suggestion, which seems to me the most likely, is that the statue represents Mary and her mother contemplating the Seven Sorrows that the Blessed Mother will suffer in later life. I think that this is especially likely given that the statue was recovered from an Irish-American church.
Anyone who knows something about iconography want to solve this one for us?