Visions of the Madonna and ChildBy Minyong Ordoñez
Philippine Daily Inquirer
OUR MEMORIES retain the Blessed Mother and the Infant Jesus in pictures captured by our mind. The Renaissance masters created the inspired graphic expressions and crafted visions conceived from dramatic scenarios from the Old and New Testaments.
Giotto, Boticelli, Da Vinci, Raphael and Michelangelo (13th-15th centuries) created for the Christian hierarchy, faithful, converts and nonbelievers the critical scenarios of the Christian faith. Their masterpieces indicate the dominance of Catholicism as the primary builder of Europe’s culture, particularly its social, educational and political awakenings.
The maternal instinct of the Blessed Virgin Mary intuitively became the substance and style of Renaissance paintings of the Madonna. This breathes life into the infant Jesus, which was an instant message on the joy of birth and the love of life.
Giotto’s “Enthroned Madonna” (1310) and Madonna and Child (1320) rendered Virgin Mary with a reverential presentation of the child Jesus in Giotto’s illustrative style.
Boticelli’s “The Madonna of the Magnificat” (1483) and “The Madonna of the Pomegranate” (1487) presented the Blessed Mother and the Holy Infant with lush colors and composite backgrounds, featuring symbolic maidens with angelic countenances. Mother and child have gentle gestures and expressions.
Da Vinci gave the Blessed Mother a Mona Lisa semblance. His “Madonna of the Carnation” (1478) showed Mother and Child as roundish and fleshy, together with St. Anne and John the Baptist. All had beautiful anatomy in a biblical scenario so characteristic of Da Vinci’s excellent storytelling composition.
Raphael mixes biblical and contemporary figures in a tableau with the Blessed Virgin Mary and the Holy Child as the centerpiece. In the “Madonna of the Baldacchino” (1507), Mother and Child are seated on an elevated throne-like chair with winged angels above. Below are cherubs, and on both sides, two holy men, St. Joseph and a bishop of the medieval church.
“The Madonna of Foligno” (1511) is another Raphael tableau, with the Mother and Child seated on heavenly clouds framed by a bright moon. Below is John the Baptist as presentor. A monk and two holy men stand on the sides in utmost reverence.
Michelangelo’s best works on the Madonna were done on marble. There were round retablos which featured the Blessed Mother as a young virgin with a playful child in “The Pitti Madonna” (1506) and “The Taddei Madonna” (1500). The most impressive is “The Brudges Madonna,” (1503) which is fully dimensional, done on marble with exquisite sculptural details at which Michelangelo excelled.
The urge to paint Mother and Child as the extension of Bethlehem covers all artists of all nationalities at any given time.
Contemporary Filipino masters delved deeper into the concept of maternal instinct with a native intuition.
Jose Blanco conceived a visually striking Madonna breastfeeding her child in a rustic atmosphere. Blanco painted two, “The Madonna of The Lantern” (1983) and “The Hay Madonna” (1994).
Bencab’s “Mother and Child” (1994) depicted the warmth of an embrace, wrapped in a blanket on a cold night (in Baguio)?
Malang’s “Mother and Child” (1993), even with its semi-representational abstractions, is intensely suggestive of the physical closeness and lovingness of a woman’s maternal instincts.
Ang Kiukok’s “Mother and Child” (1984) is an emotionally charged endearment of a figuratively rendered mother (in red) in a tight embrace of a f child in grayish white.
Our visual cognition of the Holy Child and the Blessed Mother, for all intents and purpose, began with the pictures and memories of the Nativity and its extension, the Madonna and Child.
The Nativity sends a message of joy, creating an atmosphere of triumph. The crucifixion to follow is climactic, imparting the proof and drama of deliverance.
The various paintings of the Nativity and the Madonna initiated by the Renaissance masters are kept alive by past and future generations.
We’ve kept the stampitas and Christmas cards of exquisite and classical beauty to allow us to revisit the awesome mysteries and miracles in the Gospel of our Lord. Merry Christmas to all!