Christmas celebrates a nativity – the birth of Christ. Classical images of the Virgin Mary show her with the baby Jesus, though paintings of her whilst pregnant are not the norm. Recently there has been much artistic representation of women ‘with child’ – from Damien Hirst’s controversial sculpture ‘Verity’ erected in Devon in October, to artist Jonathan Yeo’s recent portrait of a naked Sienna Miller, painted 12 weeks before she gave birth. Now Kate Middleton has conceived, there’ll be photographs of pregnant women all over the show – but will they still be controversial?
Is it an affront
to good taste?
Recently there has been much artistic representation of women “with child” — from Damien Hirst’s controversial sculpture “Verity,” erected in Devon in October, to artist Jonathan Yeo’s portrait of a naked Sienna Miller, painted 12 weeks before she gave birth. Now Kate Middleton has conceived there’ll be photographs of pregnant women all over the show — but will they still be controversial?
Is anything more beautiful than a mother to be? The citizens of the seaside town of Ilfracombe, North Devon have a somewhat confilcted view on this subject.
Verity — or truth and justice
Admittedly Hirst’s 20-metre-high bronze statue has been constructed with half of her womb and foetus, as well as her insides, on show. However, it seems that the main point of contention is that she may encourage teenage pregnancy. Though many local residents complained in the press that she was grotesque, weird or inappropriately placed, in an interview with The Guardian newspaper on the day she was installed, harbour master Rob Lawson was more thoughtful: “One half of her is calm, beautiful; the other half is provocative — the human as an animal.” Local councillor Julie Hunt went on record with quite a different view, saying Verity was simply “immoral and tasteless.”
Pregnancy — natural and beautiful or best kept under wraps?
Well the jury is still out so here at SheKnows we decided to conduct our own mini Facebook poll of what people think of pregnancy and pregnant women as works of art. We got some very interesting responses:
Dimitri Griliopoulos: “The pregnant woman is naturally creating something (someone) — much more important and beautiful than a piece of possibly frivolous art.”
Scarlett O’Ha Ha: “Pregnant women are frequently discriminated against… e.g. breastfeeding is a private matter, feed in the toilet, hide the baby etc… It is not only perfectly natural, it is necessary for bonding/attachment and health in general and in the non white/western world, standard practice.”
Regarding an artist’s perception of pregnancy, she then went on to say: “I do not necessarily agree that mainstream shock-value celebrity art serves the purpose of “normalising” the changing body. I think this too can stand to exploit, promote oils for cellulite and stretch marks and make women feel even worse about themselves, because their bodies do not return to the perfect size zero within one month. One man’s pornography is another man’s art tho (sic).”
Phil Rainford: “It’s normal, we should all just get over it I say. I’m just glad we (men) don’t have to give birth! Was God a man?”
Talking of God and man (or woman,) it’s interesting that the subject of pregnancy makes us think of the whole of creation.
Janet Griffiths: “Before “God” was invented, people worshipped “the Goddess,” as women were closer to “God” i.e. birth and death. Women are fertility and the ones who have procreated the human race. Pregnant women should be revered as “Goddesses!””
Pregnant women — public, naked and proud?
Clearly when Damien Hirst created Verity — and when Jonathan Yeo painted Sienna glorious in her naked, pregnant state — they were tapping into our primal beliefs and fears. Though Verity is considered to be strange and bizarre by many people, perhaps what is stranger is the fact that, though we all emerge from our mothers’ naked bodies, pregnant or nursing mothers and their body shape and function are mainly kept under wraps. Will the very public pregnancy of the Duchess of Cambridge change our view? Though she’ll be examined and pictured all over the world throughout her pregnancy, it’s unlikely this “exposure” will be of the literal kind, though of course whether she decides to breastfeed her child in private is her own choice. Though it was not very fashionable by the 1950s when she had her three other children — Princess Anne, Prince Andrew and Prince Edward — Her Majesty the Queen breastfed her first born, Prince Charles, in 1948.
What do you think? Should the pregnant body be celebrated or kept covered?