16th C, Rennaissance, Biblical, Manner of Joos van Cleve, Madonna with Child, Oil on Panel, 105 x 73,5 cm , Framed
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About the painting
Hey attentive observer, may we challenge you to find some unusual elements in this panel painting? One detail has to do with the symbolic use of colour, the other with an after image adjustment.
Indeed! The Blessed Virgin is not dressed in her usual sky blue cloak, which refers to her purity, but in a red robe. During the Late Middle Ages and early Renaissance, the Virgin often wore a red garment to refer to the Passion of Christ. After all, the blessing of Christ's child with his orb would shed his blood for the redemption of humankind. The second strange element catches the eye when one looks closer at the little Jesus. He was initially depicted entirely naked but got on a transparent loincloth over time. There were several times when nudity in art was subject to some form of censorship in the past. Indeed, the supervision of Christian art was enormously encouraged by the Council of Trent (1545-1563).
This assembly was dealing with the inner-ecclesiastical reform of the Roman Catholic Church. One of the crucial theologians who followed the council's guidelines was Joannes Molanus (1533-1585). He did not consider the nakedness of the Christ Child to be edifying and pointed out that children could be endangered in this way, and he may have been referring to the dangers of paedophilia.
During the 19th century, puritanism emerged. A famous example of a moral preacher was Pope Pius IX. In 1857 he had the genitals cut off from all-male nude sculptures in the Vatican. Afterwards, the damage was covered up by adding plaster fig leaves. Why was no evil seen in the nakedness of the Christ Child before the Council of Trent? At the time, the focus was primarily on Christian doctrine itself. The nudity of the Christ Child was considered to refer to the incarnation of God. In the body of Jesus, God's spiritual entity became tangible.
A bit of history
The Madonna and Child is an ancient and recurring theme in the arts history. Since the Byzantine period, monks realised paintings according to exact codes. When we look back at the history of this particular representation, we understand that this is almost an anthropological subject throwing light upon the relationship or absence of the mother-child relationship in history.