Tuesday, February 3, 2009

Kristeva: Bellini and Leonardo - Madonna and Child

I don’t know if I completely agree with the splitting theory that Kristeva suggests in her talk about maternity. I think of it as more of a bond then a split. Pregnancy is where nature and culture collide not go in opposite directions. We begin life in our mothers; she gives us an identity before we are even aware of it because of genes and DNA.
I don’t really understand the whole female Oedipus complex thing. Kristeva states that a woman wants to give birth to her father’s child and that the child’s purpose is to essentially become like the mother’s father. And all this is because the woman really wants to be a man and have a penis.

I think it’s a bit far fetched. I mean sure some families want boys but some want girls too. And almost no child wants to grow up to be EXACTLY like their parents. Children take bits and pieces of their parents and apply them to how they want to be. They say things like “I want to be like my dad in this way but not in this way”, etc. The other psychic processes of becoming a mother I pretty much agree with. There is a biological drive to give birth and keep the species going. And there is a desire to be like your mother and be a good mother to your children.

Leonardo (top) and Bellini (bottom) Madonna and Child paintings side by side.

Answers to the Questions:

1. Bellini was shaped by Byzantine influences. As it states in the reading, Bellini seemed more interested in the female form then the young male form that was popular in Italy. He was also shaped by the mere fact that he was from a city that was the high point of Art during the Renaissance that all the men in his family were painters.

2. The only things we know about Bellini are that he was married but his wife died young and his son died young as well. We also know that Bellini’s mother believes that he was an illegitimate child and did not recognize herself as his mother.

3. Leonardo’s Madonna and Childs tell us that he was confused about mothers because he had two of them. They also tell us that he was very attached to his maternal mother. In the Madonna and Childs the Mary is never looking at the baby, seemingly distracted by something else. Leonardo might have been confused as to why he needed two mothers and why he was taken from his real mother. He might think he mother didn’t want him or was distracted just as Mary is in the paintings. At the same time Mary’s face is always gentle and serene with peace and love even though she is always looking away from the baby.

4. In Leonardo’s Madonna and Childs he always has Mary looking somewhere away from the baby as if distracted or focusing on something in the distance. Bellini does almost the exact opposite. In his Madonna and Childs Mary is always focusing all of her attention on the baby.

5. Bellini uses a mixture of hot colors and cold colors. He is very big on contrast and separation. He clearly separates the different sections of his paintings yet simultaneously molds them into a cohesive whole at the same time. He attempts to make his paintings “real” by using such an abrupt and absurd color contrasts.

6. In the quoted passage Kristeva means that Christ’s Death and birth are coupled because one makes the other inevitable. With his birth Mary knew that Christ was going to die. Every mother knows this when she gives birth to her child. Even though Christ died in a unique way and for a unique reason but everyone will die because they were born.

7. The early Madonna’s are rather stone faced and cold toward the baby. The ones from 55-60 have the Madonna’s holding a struggling baby. Many have interpreted that the baby Christ was trying to get away from his mother but maybe he was just being a restless baby. To me these seem more realistic than Christ just sitting there, serene and still. From 60-64 Bellini’s Madonna’s are still grabbing at the baby but not as much and at the buttocks rather then the genitals. The Madonna also has her hands folded at the center of the painting to draw attention and center the eyes. From 75-80 Bellini focused on other paintings and broke away from the Madonna and Child. From 80-90 the Madonna and Child now have a very distinct split. Mary leans away from her child and looks as if she is about to run from the child. She looks dissatisfied and hurt somehow by the unknowing baby. From 1500-1509 Bellini’s Madonna’s have become pale and apathetic toward the baby. Almost as if it wasn’t her own and she were just holding him for someone.

8. These changes in Bellini’s Madonna’s could be attributed to the fact that later in his life he found out that he was a bastard child. He loved his mother very much and she was very caring and kind, just like the Madonna’s seem to be early on, until it was revealed that she was not in fact his mother and his father had had Bellini out of wedlock. Bellini’s mother even went as far as to cut him out of her will in the end which could be why the Madonna looks apathetic in the later paintings because that’s how his mother became toward him.

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