La Maternité (1901)

Picasso, Pablo (1881-1973)

La Maternité (Motherhood)
Oil on fibre board, 100.1 × 72.9 cm
National GalleryLondon

On loan from a private collection.

A mother cradles a naked child, its long limbs folded into her embrace as if still in the womb. The mother’s weariness is balanced by the child’s serenity. A colourful landscape of undulating fields, one being tilled to bring forth new life, unfolds beyond leading to a sheet of intense blue water. The upper sky, rapidly brushed in, is unfinished.

The mother and child echo Renaissance depictions of Virgin and Child, and the influence of El Greco, encountered by Picasso on a visit to Toledo in January 1901, is seen in the mother’s elongated hands. The model has been identified as Germaine (Laure) Florentin, mistress of Picasso’s Catalan friend Carles Casagemas who committed suicide in February 1901 following the failure of their relationship. The painting was long dated to 1903 until sold in a widely noted public auction in New York in the late 1950s when Picasso himself informed the author of his catalogue raisonné, Christian Zervos, that it had been painted two years earlier. (NG)