Madonna and Child
Missionary-Ethnological Museum, Inv. AU 2899
An ivory sculpture from the Philippines, this Madonna and Child
was executed in a Western style which is reminiscent of the so-called
“Schöne Madonnen,” pleasant and pleasing, with a slightly s-shaped
body (here, probably due in part to the tusk from which it was carved).
The softly draped garment, the curved, cascading hair, the elegant
gesture of the right hand, the self-assured pose, and smooth oval face
make this statue to be a precious object of art, in expression (beauty)
as well as in matter (ivory). The image of the mother suggests certain
self-sufficiency to a point where the critical onlooker may wonder
whether the child is more than a mandatory afterthought. He appears
comfortable enough on His mother’s arm, but He seems to be detached from
the mother and lost in His own world.
Marked by the Word of God
Madonna and Child should not be separated, neither in fact nor as
suggestion. Styles and iconographic programs may change. The one
fundamental message remains: Madonna and Christ Child cannot be
separated. Together they symbolize the union of heaven and earth, that
is God’s human presence in this world for our salvation. The art of the
Madonna should lead us on or back to God. Where the Madonna is a mere
expression of herself, of self-sufficiency, her art becomes a
cul-de-sac, a dead-end. On the contrary, the art about her fulfills its
true purpose when she points to the glory of God. This is true for
Our Lady of the Gospel by Hugh Witzman. The posture of this
sculpture is that of Our Lady of receptiveness and attentiveness. Her
chest is marked with the symbols of the four gospels. The Word of God
has been carved unto her body; it has been imprinted on her heart. She
is the open book of God’s glory, and His salvation.
For more information:
Consult the exhibit catalog:
The Mother of God: Art Celebrates Mary, pp. 118-119.