Le Berceau [The Cradle] (1872), by Berthe Morisot (1841 – 1895), Musée du Louvre
SaturdayArt was a little project of mine on Facebook, where I would post a picture of a painting and often add a short paragraph about it. I had been wanting to include it in my blog ever since the idea of a blog came to my mind. I can’t think of a better time to publish the first post than today, Mother’s Day. Yes, it’s not a Saturday, but it’s the perfect day to celebrate the wonderful human being that is my mum and her passion for art which she was able pass on to me.
Le Berceau was painted by Berthe Morisot in 1872 and it is most probably her most famous painting. It was showed for the first time at the first Impressionist exhibition of 1874 and it was the only painting by a female painter to be presented at that event. This is the first of a long series of painting depicting motherhood, a subject very dear to Morisot.
Indeed, we can see a mother absorbed in the contemplation of her sleeping child. They are the artist’s sister, Edma, and her daughter, Blanche. There are a few interesting observations to be made about the painting. Look at the mother and then at the baby. The position of their bended arms creates a symmetry that suggests the strong emotional connection and the blood relation between the two. The first thing that catches the eye is certainly Edma’s gaze. Placed almost in the centre of the painting, her blue-dressed figure stands out from the prevailing white colour (white which, by the way, I’ve only seen equally masterfully worked by Manet, who was, unsurprisingly, a close friend and artistic inspiration to Morisot). The direction of the gaze, also suggested by the curve of the curtain on the back, goes down in a diagonal and finds its home in the closed eyes of the sleeping Blanche. It’s a very peaceful and pensive gaze, full of love. It wraps around the baby creating a highly intimate scene. The shape of the cradle itself creates an enclosed space, where only the mother and her child exist. When I look at it, I feel like a privileged witness to this scene. I almost feel as if I should quite myself in order not to break the magical moment and wake up the baby. Even if I’m a witness to it, however, I’m clearly not part of it. The veil of the creadle barrs me and all other observers outside of it, allowing only the mother to cast it aside with her right arm. It’s a comforting feeling to know that the mother is there to look over her child and to reassure her child in case she wakes up.
Morisot has been able to capture this most tender and loving moment with the finest skill, don’t you agree? Not bad from someone whose death certificate declared her as having ‘No profession’. Luckily, women today can choose to pursue any professional career they want. A mother and an artist, Berthe certainly is a great source of inspiration.
Happy Mother’s Day to all mothers of the world!