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.
In consequence of the absence of prospect, the figures appear superimposed on various levels. The composition is subjected to the religious iconography.
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.
The expression of Grace reaches a top here. The background and the landscape are almost abstract.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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