I have never, ever seen so many baby Jesus' or Madonna's. Today as I wandered the Galleria Borghese it dawned on me that no wonder Christianity took such a firm hold…this was their form of media blitz, advertising. Of course if you see thousands of Madonna's and baby Jesu a trend emerges, the Virgin Mary, at least to me, is always beautiful, serene, passive but you can sense her power. The baby Jesus is usually pretty ugly either depicted as a freakishly small man or just not all that baby-cute except for one painting which is now my all time favorite baby Jesus painting. Lotto painted it in 1508 and shows the Madonna and Child with St Flavian and St Onophrius, Jesus is squirming in her lap. Jesus is a fat cuddly looking little baby who's grabbing at the cardinal's clothes, you can almost see the drool on his chubby little chin…he's a real baby, clearly a handful and she has that calm but tired look of a mother who has a very active, curious baby boy not a mini-man who's aware of all mankinds foibles at barely 1 years old.
I saw more of Lorenzo Lotto's paintings in the Uffizi and he really has a knack for getting baby Jesus right. Another favorite of mine is Madonna della Grazie, 1542. There are angels around but Baby Jesus and Mary are the ones in real communication. I love the gesture of her hands and the pose, gesture and expression on Baby Jesus. Another favorite is Madonna and Child with Saints and Mary looks young, tired and in a comfortable pose. Jesus is no longer a baby, he's a bit older and his curiosity has deepened as he watches and listens to the Saint but you can almost sense his little chubby legs are about to do that funny thing babies do when they do bouncy or rubber legs. The other interesting thing is that Jesus is listening to the Saint but you sense his attention will break at any instant but Mary is not focused, she's daydreaming. I've been researching more on Lorenzo Lotto and find I really REALLY like his work. His people come across as real, soft flesh, great emotion and many in family situations, they seem more natural than work I've seen from this time period. As far as I can find out he was never married, never had a family…maybe he wanted that.
Another surprise painting I saw today at the Uffizi painted by Francesco Rustici around 1621 called Allegory of Painting and Architecture. It is a painting of a painter and an architect with all their tools around them and clearly in a full blown discussion about something and they are two women!!!! I cannot think of another painting, especially that early, that shows women in such revered professions. Rock on Rustici!
Another surprise was to see the paintings of Andrea Di Vanni Andrea and learn that the painter was a woman who did these works in 1370!!! And is the only woman painter in all of the Uffizi for centuries up until the amazing Artemisia Gentleschi's works! It's huge to even acknowledge a woman painting at that time.
Then I went on an art pilgrimage to see much more modern and perfectly simple work by the incredible Giorgio Morandi. It was a welcome break from all the massive frames and giant intense paintings that invoke a mental sound track of angelic music. His works are small, very simple and deeply inspiring! More on Mr. Morandi at another time...