Madonna & Child

This exhibition features painted depictions of the Virgin Mary and infant Jesus by a variety of artists from the 14th to 20th centuries. The purpose of this exhibition is to highlight the different interpretations of the roles of the Virgin Mary, from doting mother to intercessor to Queen of Heaven.

Spanzotti's depiction of the Madonna and Child is a classical representation of this theme. The ornate throne and rich dress exhibit Mary as a queen, exalted and favored. The innocence of the Child and His mother is evident in their round, cherubic, slightly flushed faces, which echo the faces of the angels surrounding them. The sweet, childlike faces of the angels evoke peace, while their hands, folded in prayer, suggest praise and reverence.
In Caravaggio’s Madonna of the Rosary, the infant Jesus is the central focus of the painting, but not, interestingly, of the petitioners at the bottom of the canvas. The people reach instead for the rosaries distributed, at the instruction of Mary, by St. Dominic on the left. This painting highlights the role of the Madonna as intercessor for the faithful. Praying the rosary is often understood as a way of reaching Christ through Mary. Caravaggio employs a three dimensional style and the anatomy of the figures is very lifelike.
This modern depiction of the Madonna and Child by Slovakian artist Bazovsky is much more abstract than the previous paintings. The brushstrokes and colors give the painting a rough, earthy feeling. The Virgin and Child are superimposed over the outline of a donkey, perhaps referencing the donkey Mary rode on her trip to Bethlehem, the donkey the adult Jesus would ride into Jerusalem, or the barn in which the Virgin birthed the infant Jesus. All of these examples reference humility, and combined with the rough, earthy feeling of the painting, emphasize the humility of the Mother of God and the birth of Jesus.
In Raphael’s painting of the Madonna with the infant Jesus and young St. John the Baptist, she is not depicted in a church or as Queen of heaven. Instead of a throne, she is seated on the ground in a pastoral setting. She tenderly holds the baby Jesus and observes his play with the young John. Here, Mary is merely a mother caring for her child. The religious overtones are not absent, however; the infant Jesus grips the cross offered by John the Baptist, referencing His acceptance of His crucifixion and death.
This depiction of the Madonna del Latte also highlights Mary’s maternal qualities. The dark background and lack of setting creates a highly intimate feeling. The mother gazes at her child, who grips her breast with both hands. The depiction of the intimate act of breastfeeding highlights the intimate relationship between Mary and her Son, and reminds the viewer of her motherly qualities.
In contrast to the previous two paintings, Botticini depicts the Madonna adoring the infant Jesus, reminding the viewer of her worship for the Son of God. Despite being crowned with her own halo, Mary kneels in devotion before Jesus, her hands folded in prayer. Her hair is covered as a sign of respect (as many women still cover their heads in Mass to this day).
This is perhaps the strangest painting in this collection, by the surrealist painter Wolfgang Lettl. The setting is an ornate alcove one might find in a church or museum, but the Madonna and Child are composed of what appear to be found objects like lumber, sticks, tin, and nails. Lettl says in his own words that his work focuses on the fragile, stable, and dissolving. This painting, perhaps, emphasizes the humanity of Mary and Christ.
This painting emphasizes Mary’s regality. She is depicted standing within an ornate church. The Christ child is held in her arms, but He is very small in relation to His mother. Mary is larger-than-life, taller than the arches in the church. She is elaborately robed and crowned Queen of Heaven, worthy of reverence and worship.
Credits: All media
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