The Child's Caress : Mary Cassatt
The Child's Bath : Mary Cassatt
Small Cowper Madonna : Raphael
Young Mother : Renoir
Doni Tondo : Michelangelo
Madonna and Child : Fra Filippo Lippi
This is the 6th post in the series PICTURES FOR PARENTS. This post is called "Serenity of a Madonna - Mother, an example of unruffled tranquility."
"It is not for nothing that the old painters, however diverse their ideas in other matters, all fixed upon one quality as proper to the pattern Mother. The Madonna, no matter out of whose canvas she looks at you, is always serene. This is a great truth, and we should do well to hang our walls with the Madonnas of all the early Masters if the lesson, taught through the eye, would reach with calming influence to the heart." School Education : Charlotte Mason. p 33.
If you google image "paintings of mothers" or "old master paintings of mothers", you will find an enormous number of mother and madonna paintings that have been painted over the centuries, and most of them have serene faces.
I like Charlotte Mason's thought or wish, that the serenity in the painted madonna's face could bring calm to the heart of the gazer. I want to make some comments on 2 sections of the quote above.
1. "It is not for nothing that the old painters .... all fixed on one quality as proper to the pattern mother." ~
It is not coincidental that the old painters came to the same conclusion, then attempted to paint this one 'quality' to represent motherhood - serenity. What an unlikely choice! Some would say that mothers have moved on from here, mothers today can do anything. Some may think serenity to be irrelevant for a mother in the 21st century. We are too busy and there's no time to sit around being serene. With the many messages today of what a mum is to be, we tend to want to be free from such a restrictive role of expressionless, dull, non-assertive, serenity. But the point Charlotte Mason makes, that countless artists not just through the Renaissance but over many centuries, have repeatedly portrayed mothers with a serene expression, certainly makes one stop and think. WHY serene?
"SERENE" = calm, untroubled, unperturbed, expressive or suggestive of tranquility, clear, quiet radiance or brightness, unruffled, cheerful. Charlotte suggests that the pattern of a mother, the template from which motherhood comes, is serenity, and the old painters continued to express this trait in the faces of mothers for hundreds of years. So serenity must be an important ingredient in a mother's makeup.
If you think back to when you were a child and imagine how you would have felt if your mother had been calm, untroubled, unperturbed, tranquil, unruffled and cheerful through most of your growing-up years, you would possibly have grown into a different adult to who you are today. Your childhood would probably have been more wonderful than it was. It would have developed your capacity to be calm, unflappable and confident. This is what our children need for their future, they need to find in us a confident example of serenity. Living in a time of huge hurry and distraction, children need mothers who are serene.
2. "The lesson taught through the eye could reach with calming influence to the heart." ~
In the past centuries, before books were a common possession, images and art were a means of learning and influenced people's lives. Today we still know this to be true with the growing power of the visual world through technology. Statistics increasingly show the connection between the visual material people look at and how they think and behave. This has been proven especially in the areas of violence and inappropriate sexual material.
What we look at shapes what we think, say and do.
So Charlotte's idea to "hang our walls with the Madonnas of all the early Masters", has real merit. Continually looking at serene faces, being reminded of the positive effects of an untroubled mum who expresses tranquility, is unruffled, cheerful and calm, could possibly have the effect Charlotte hopes for, in influencing our heart and starting new patterns of thought and behaviour, to the benefit of ourselves and out family.
THISWEEKWITHTHEKIDS ~ borrow some art books from the library with prints of mothers and madonnas. Have a close look at the mothers faces, and look at what they are doing while they hold their serene expression on their face. They are probably doing normal everyday jobs, like we do. Take your time to look carefully. Put them up for a time if you wish so you can memorise the images, and keep them influencing your mind.