Madonna (Edvard Munch)

Madonna is a painting by the Norwegian expressionist Edvard Munch. Munch painted five versions of the Madonna between 1894 and 1895, using oils on canvas. One of them measures 91 x 70.5 cm.

One version belongs to the Munch Museum of Oslo: this was stolen in 2004 and recovered two years later. Another is owned by businessman Nelson Blitz.


Although it is a highly unusual representation, nevertheless, this painting is of Mary, the mother of Jesus. Until the 20th century Mary was usually represented in high art as a chaste, mature woman.. True to the Norwegian cultural beliefs and way of life, the painting is a strong dose of realism. Ms. Sigrun Rafter, an art historian at the Oslo National Gallery suggests that Munch intended to represent Mary in the life-making act of intercourse, with the sanctity and sensuality of the union captured by Munch. The usual golden halo of Mary has been replaced with a red halo symbolizing the love and pain duality. The viewers viewpoint is that of the man with her. Even in this unusual pose, she embodies some of the key elements of canonical representations of the Virgin: she has a quietness and a calm confidence about her. Her eyes are closed, expressing modesty, but she is simultaneously lit from above; her body is seen, in fact, twisting toward the light so as to catch more of it, even while she does not face it with her eyes. These elements suggest aspects of conventional representations of the Annunciation. See also: Madonna (art).


On Sunday, 22 August 2004, Madonna, along with a version of The Scream, were stolen from the Munch Museum by masked men wielding firearms. The robbers forced the museum guards to lie down on the floor while they snapped the cable securing the paintings to the wall and escaped in a black Audi A6 station wagon, which police later found abandoned.

Both paintings were recovered by Oslo Police on 31 August 2006. The following day, Munch Museum Director Ingebjørg Ydstie said that the condition of the paintings was much better than expected and that the damages, including a 2.5 cm hole in the Madonna, could be repaired.

Interestingly, it is believed that Edvard Munch would not have been terribly disheartened by the thefts. Munch himself stored some of his art work outside, believing that weathering via natural elements could only add to a piece of art work.



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