Thursday, October 7, 2010

Picture of the day: The Birth of the Virgin, by Ghirlandio

 I saw this frescoe this summer.  It's on the South wall of the Tornabuoni chapel in the choir of the Santa Maria Novella church in Florence.  There is a whole series of frescoes, depicting the life of Virgin Mary, but this one got to me the most.  Maybe it's the fact that I'm a mother, I'm not sure, but probably yes. 
In the painting we can see the Virgin's mother, saint Anne, just after giving birth to her daugher, lying on the bed in the background, while several women are taking care of the newborn little girl. 
More women are entering the room, parading in their best clothes, to pay their respect and to get a glimpse of the baby.  The mother is left in the shadows, behind the main scene, and we can see how the women literally fight over the child.  "Now it's my turn to hold her!".  The woman holding the newborn is smiling like it was her child, there is a bonding going on which the mother isn't a part of.  She doesn't count here.
I feel so sorry for that poor post partum woman, lying there, propped up on her elbow, probably dying to hold her baby, to be alone with her, but without the strength to say so.

Domenico Ghirlandio was a succesfull 
painter in 15th century Florence.  He made two big series of frescoes for Santa Maria Novella: The Life of the Virgin, and The Life of Saint John the Baptist.
Michelangelo was one of the students of his workshop, and he has probably participated in the creation of these frescoes, painted between 1485 and 1490.

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