Mother and Child (The Oval Mirror)

Artist: Mary Cassatt (American, Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania 1844–1926 Le Mesnil-Théribus, Oise)

Date: ca. 1899

Medium: Oil on canvas

Dimensions: 32 1/8 x 25 7/8 in. (81.6 x 65.7 cm)

Classification: Paintings

Credit Line: H.O. Havemeyer Collection, Bequest of Mrs. H.O. Havemeyer, 1929

Accession Number: 29.100.47

Description

Here, Cassatt underscored the importance of the maternal bond by evoking religious art. The woman’s adoring look and the boy’s sweet face and contrapposto stance suggest Italian Renaissance images of the Virgin and Child, a connection reinforced by the oval mirror that frames the boy’s head like a halo. Cassatt’s colleague Edgar Degas perceived her references to the Renaissance, telling her that the painting “has all of your qualities and all your faults—it’s the Infant Jesus and his English nurse.” The Havemeyers, who purchased the canvas for their collection, referred to it as “The Florentine Madonna.”

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