We have seen many symbolic representations of the Madonna and Child in class. I was very intrigued by this repeating image and what it represents. I decided to do some digging in order to compare the images that we have seen in class to some of the many paintings of the Madonna and Child in order to assimilate the symbolism in these images.
Let us first take a look at these two images:
The first is the picture of A Flower Girl we saw in class. The second is Leonardo Da Vinci’s Madonna and Child with Flowers. Both of these images figure a humbly dressed mother (although one seems to be by choice and the other by circumstance) with child-like features and a chubby-cheeked child. Flowers are a central theme in both pictures. The Da Vinci piece seems to sing with innocence and purity while Dore’s version uses the same tactics in order to show how innocence fares in the harshness of the London life. While the flowers in one symbolize the soft purity of youth, the other turns that concept on its head by making the same flowers a form of hard labor.
Let’s compare these two images:
There are striking similarities between the picture of John Thompson’s The “Crawlers” and Bernardino da Asola’s Madonna and Child. Both children lie on the ladies’ lap with total trust. The women are looking down, engulfed in light and humbly dressed. It is important to note, however, that while da Asola’s Madonna is looking at her child, the Crawler woman is looking at the floor in seeming despair. With these two images, it is again obvious that the same elements are used with different goals. One is to represent unconditional love, the other hopelessness.
Here is the last set of images to compare:
I chose to compare these two images because of less obvious reasons. The first images is the one we saw on our visit to the art museum, Ur-Mutter #2 by Adrian Piper. The other is one of the earliest known representations of the Madonna and Child from an 6th century Icon in Saint Catherine’s Monastery in Sinai. My reading of the Piper is that “We made you” is meant to represent an origin and a debt. If a mother is the beginning of all life, then care for them. The Mary and Child Icon seems to be saying the same thing. Here’s the origin of a mother and child depiction that is meant to evoke a religious experience. The pose of both pictures is very similar, with the mother enveloping the child with both arms. It is the mother caring for the child above all else that is pictured here, and yet there is a call to action in the eyes as both mothers as they look directly at the viewer. One saying “care for my plight”, the other “follow the right path.”
There are many conclusions that can be reached by comparing these images. I will, in fact, welcome your conclusions in the comments. I thought it interesting that the children in all these images are quite interchangeable. It made me think of how Jesus can be a symbol for humanity as a whole. He did, after all, die for all our sin according to the christian faith. The child is Jesus, but he is also every one of us. If this is true then Mary is our mother. She is the one who loves us and works for us, the one that cares for us and despairs for us, the one that teaches us and teaches others about us.