This is the first Madonna and child I acquired. I bought it in Florence, after being in the Uffizi, and seeing all those scores of Annunciations, Gabriel and Mary in every conceivable relationship, Mary with every conceivable expression, one story used to express so many different ideas. It is a simple thing, printed onto the wood, and its colours seem a little dull. They need candlelight to come into their own.
It is full of symbolism, such as the crown of thorns around the child’s left wrist, but at heart it is a young woman and her child, a far more naturally baby-like child than in Orthodox icons with a baby’s proportions. The consciousness in the child’s face is also naturalistic: I have a photograph of my sister bathing her son in a basin (which he would not wish to be published, I think). They have eye contact, and the consciousness and trust expressed on his face are beautiful. I know little of photography, but I do know that one of my favourite subjects is people in eye contact.
It is something I have lived with, and living with a beautiful thing I get to know it, and see more and more detail in it; and then pass it, and notice it briefly, so that its beauty continually enriches me.