“Madonna And Child” Fatigue

The BBC reports that a painting by Titian recently was sold at auction for a new record for a Titian painting.

The painting, called “A Sacra Conversazione: The Madonna and Child with Saints Luke and Catherine of Alexandria,” sold for $16.9 million.  The painting has all of the standard features of a “Madonna and child” painting — the plump but alert baby Jesus, wrapped in swaddling clothes, held by his placid mother Mary, who is clad in dark clothing.  The only remarkable thing about the painting is that two other characters are shown, too.

When I read the BBC story and saw the painting it reminded me of my visit to the Louvre many years ago.  I love art and I love looking at artwork in museums, but walking through room after room of “Madonna and Child” paintings definitely gave me “Madonna and Child” fatigue.  I felt guilty about my reaction, but after the first few dozen of the paintings I found myself unable to appreciate the artist’s technique, the depiction of the angelic features of the mother and child, the positioning of the characters, the background representations, and so forth.  Instead, I found myself thinking things like:  “Wow, Jesus was really a porker!  What the heck have they been feeding him?” I was happy when I finally got to the Mona Lisa and left the “Madonna and Child” rooms behind.

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