Mother’s Day is a modern holiday celebrating mothers and motherhood, but the idea of honoring moms and maternal figures has existed since ancient times. This year, explore the Museum’s collection to discover how artists from different eras and places have paid tribute to the many roles of mothers, everywhere.
Mothers are proud of their children
While in Gallery 222, don’t miss Davide Ghirlandaio’s The Madonna and Child with Sts. Louis of Toulouse and Thomas with donors Ludovico Folchi and his wife Tommasa. The artist’s use of a central vanishing point—the pomegranate fruit in the Madonna’s left hand—emphasizes this symbol of resurrection and the spiritual meaning of the work.
Artist Paul Cézanne relied on his family to provide subject matter for his work, which is evident in a two-sided portrait in Gallery 217. On the front of this canvas is a portrait of the artist’s sister, Marie. A palette knife was used to produce the thick strokes of color and texture. On the reverse we see a portrait of Cézanne’s mother.
A sweet portrayal of motherly devotion, The Young Mother in Gallery 333 is one of Bessie Potter Vonnoh’s most popular works. Vonnoh was born and raised in St. Louis, and won a gold medal for her bronze sculpture, Motherhood, at the 1904 World’s Fair.
The serene face of Figure of a Mother and Child in Gallery 117 wears a subtle smile; her eyes and mouth form an arrangement of three diamonds. The Yoruba artist successfully utilizes abstract geometry to evoke bonding and unity. This carving would have been placed on an altar in a shrine or sanctuary belonging to an extended family.