Our Lady of Childbirth, Piero della Francesca

Our Lady of Childbirth, Piero della Francesca
Our Lady of Childbirth, Piero della Francesca

The image of the Virgin with Child is one of the most represented Marian iconography since medieval times, however, there was an even more intimate trend in which the Virgin was represented in more intimate and personal moments such as breastfeeding her child, the one known as Virgen de la Leche or even at the moment of childbirth like the work we are analyzing here.


The Virgin of childbirth is a work by the Renaissance painter Piero della Francesca (1415 – 1492) who is currently considered one of the best frescoes of the entire Renaissance and, in turn, a humanist painter who gave great importance to the study of mathematics and symmetry within its production. The work analyzed here came from a small chapel in the church of Santa Maria Nomentana, a small town located near Sansepolcro, the town where the artist was born. Already in the eighteenth century, the small temple suffered the effects of a very serious earthquake that completely destroyed it except for the wall that contained the fresco by Piero della Francesca, this fact was interpreted as a divine sign and the work began to receive numerous pilgrims. At the end of the 19th century, in 1889, the work was definitively attributed to the Sansepolcro painter and at the beginning of the following century it was decided to move it for conservation reasons.

Actually, the experts don'tend up agreeing on the dating of the piece, everyone seems to agree that the fresco must have been made around the sixties but although some choose to advance the date to 1450 and others for delaying it until 1559, the date on which the artist's mother died and when Piero was supposed to be in the area.

In the work we appreciate the same composition as in other works by the artist, such as The Dream of Constantine, placing the scene in a tent that is opened by two angels; in this sense we must point out the importance of symmetry for the artist who considers that the Virgin should be flanked by two angels. María is represented as a young woman who supports the weight of her prominent belly by leaning back and placing one of her hands on her side while with the other she caresses herself maternally to reveal her undergarment.

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