Monday, 16 October 2017

Getting to grips with what mother means

A medieval Mary with her infant son

Van Gogh paints Mary giving us her son. 

Spending time in Amsterdam with Grandpa, walking round the streets and the galleries, we notice recurrent themes which  play out again and again  and which can be seen in so many paintings and in writings and of course in everyday life. The galleries are often laid out following  the history of a country which could be all countries and shows that there are some things which never change and  which
recur again and again.  Landscapes and seascapes show a constantly changing world. Warships and victories show the ambitions of  nations to have and to hold their position against others, to explore and collect riches from what would become an extension through empire.  Then there are marine paintings of fishermen and their catches, of farmers and their tools and of the rich merchant classes in their magnificent furs and jewels, often the product of the exploration and trade which they pursued. 
A very modern Mary becomes a mother
Faces from the past in their own costumes and settings tell us about their world but also about our own world where if you look carefully, you see the faces repeating only now the clothes may have changed from velvet into denim and wool!  There are mothers in domestic settings, some posing for portraits, some working with their hands in ancient interiors and many depictions of the Mother of God, Mary.  I have picked out two from different centuries because of something universal they share with each other and with all mothers.  It isn't exactly personal and yet it becomes personal when you become a mother.  It pre-exists your mothering in a way although you had a mother and it is the great universal mother love which gets each mother through each day of nursing babies, teaching toddlers, taming teenagers, watching each child become whatever it is going to become, good or bad and then never giving up on them.  It is the energy which compels the mother who goes to work to provide for her child, which compels the mother who has to stay behind when the child is ill, it is that which means that every mother wants the best for her child even if it takes that child miles away.  

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