Maternities

French version

In the history of Western painting, the most famous Pictures of maternities represent the Virgin with the Jesus child. As well in the Gothic tradition as in that of the Rebirth, the attention of the painter and of the spectator bears on the characters. In the Gothic tradition the setting stands against a background of gold to which it can be often reduced; it is subordinated to the iconography, figures of saints and/or troop of angels. It is thus supernatural, which is explained by the subject, since this one is the image of the spiritual place from where radiates Christian faith, and thus is stamped with majesty.

The Italian Rebirth introduced there the expression of Grace, a sublimated form of human appearance. It often places the Virgin and the child in a natural setting, interior or landscape, but which presents a general and timeless characteristic. It even happens that the setting disappears and is reduced to a dark background, as in Madonna of the Grand Duke, by Raphael.

On the other hand, the prodigious Flemish primitives introduce in the subject a naturalist dimension. They make of the Virgin and the Baby Jesus, a mother and a child, participant of the generality of human condition, and immersed in a setting not only natural but also particularized, with often an opening on a landscape.

As for me, it is the profane topic of mother with her infant or her little child that I treated, although there is, in this entry in life and in daylight something which can cause a quasi religious emotion. I did it, I also, in a naturalist orientation, but in the spirit of pictorial modernity. The setting is often a country house, the window the place of a dynamic passage between the interior and outside, the direction of the light, third protagonist, often indicates the hour of the scene.

In the Christian dogma, the topic of mother-child relationship, when it is of the Virgin and the Jesus child, is presented in the form of an irruption of supernatural in the natural order. However the natural order does not disappear, as pointed out by these Gothic paintings of Nativities, where all the animals of the cattle shed appear. 


Bernardino Daddi - Madonna with angels and
saints

Bernardino Daddi - Madonna with angels and saints -1365

In consequence of the absence of prospect, the figures appear superimposed on various levels. The composition is subjected to the religious iconography.


Giotto - Madonna

Giotto (1265-1337) - Madonna

Giotto kept here the gold background peculiar to the Gothic art. But he announces the Rebirth by the manner, inter alia, of individualizing his characters.

Leonardo da Vinci (1452-1519) - Madonna Litta

Leonardo da Vinci (1452-1519) - Madonna Litta 

The expression of Grace reaches a top here. The background and the landscape are almost abstract.

Jean Fouquet - The Virgin surrounded with
angels

Jean Fouquet (1420-1477) - The Virgin surrounded with angels  - vers 1450


In this admirable painting by Jean Fouquet, the distribution between flat surfaces and volumes, between colours and lines fulfils utterly the requirements of what Fernand Léger calls realism of conception and which comes under pure plastic criteria. But that distribution creates by itself a space, an abstract space, for a supernatural purpose. It can be said about this painting that it is supernaturalistAgainst this purple background, the Virgin and the child seem remote, as if there was an inversion of the space connections. From this intangible and virginal beauty, with her uncovered and hemispherical breast, emerges a chilly eroticism. Although he largely assimilated the inventions, the prospects inter alia, of the Italian Rebirth, Fouquet remains impregnated of a Gothic spirit.

Rogier Van der Weydent - Saint-Luc painting the portrait
of the Virgin

Rogier van der Weyden(1399-1464) - Saint-Luc painting the portrait of the Virgin 


   This pictures realizes an interpenetration of the secular and the sacred provinces. The Virgin, a simple woman, suckles her child. The window looks onto a splendid landscape with two persons leaning on a parapet are talking with each other while gazing at the river. In this superb scene with inside and the outside, the painter painted Saint Luc painting. The theme is, as well the painting itself, and especially the flamish painting with its genius for lanscape, as the Virgin and child.


Albert Lichten - Maternity I  - 1973 - oil on canvas

   This is my first version of the theme maternity. The morning sun licks the tile floor. Mother and chlid are closely together and against the light. In order to foil the masking of the infant by the mother's body, which is almost facing the window, in order to give its full presence to this country room, a sophisticated construction has been necessary, disobeying the laws of classical prospect.

Albert Lichten - Maternité au square

Albert Lichten - Maternity in public garden - 2000 - oil on canvas


This picture is violently disobeying the laws of classical prospect, as well as it is dealing in a violent way with the shapes of the mother's body. The topic wanted it to be so : the little girl is envelopped in the motherly presence and look. The circle is however not closed, it opens on the left.

Albert Lichten - The feeding bottle

Albert Lichten - The feeding bottle - 2001 - oil on canvas

Mother and child are no more closely together. This deliberate distance does not exclude tenderness. But the window indicates that the child will have to go away some day.

Albert LICHTEN - Maternity IV

Albert Lichten - Maternity IV - 2005 - oil on canvas

This is again a morning maternity. Here the mother is seen at the same time full-face ant three quarter. The unit of theese several spaces is demanded in order to express the importance of the moment and of the surrounding world. A ray of sun licks a part of the bed and reaches the back of the room: its a way of making the spectator feel the simutaneous presence of the room and of the outside space. Mother and child are still in a slight half-light

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