April 16, 2014

Motherhood in Art - Education of the Virgin

Every year, Luleå municipality buys art for 200.000 SEK and places it in different public places and offices. Every year, the art is hung in the Art Gallery for a month, and everyone is invited to look and vote on where each piece of art goes. It used to be that only employees of the municipality could vote, but some of my friends and I (and, no doubt, several others) protested and left our votes anyway, seeing as it is our tax money after all, and we spend a lot of time in some of those public places. It´s nice to see that it´s possible to change things, even if this was a minor one.

One painting that made an impression on me this year was this: "Motherhood" by Eva Zettervall. It immediately made me think of a subject in Christian art called "Virgin and Child with Saint Anne" (in Swedish "Anna Själv Tredje"), where Virgin Mary´s mother Anne holds both her and the Christ child in her knee. I find it an interesting composition, with the mirror-image of the woman, her arms empty there. And the wading bird on her shoulder that seems to correspond to some kind of beetle in the reflection. And that lizzard, what´s that about?

A googling of the artist reveals that she has made similar compositions with mothers and children, and reflections. She doesn´t seem to have a website, but she has been around for long, with many exhibitions, and there are some articles about her.

Actually, I think that the Swedish name of this subject (very similar to the German, and other European languages as well), which, if you translate it word by word, is "Anna Herself Third" is more evocative than "Virgin and Child with Saint Anne". It is almost like a short poem, a riddle of sort. Perhaps that is why it stuck in my head. Swedish singer-songwriter Anna Järvinen released an album a few years back also titled "Anna Själv Tredje". Here is a song from that album:

Also, spring is on the way: the birds are singing like crazy every morning. I think the chaffinch-train arrived on Monday, because three of them have been serenading since then from their selected trees. The magpie couple in the birch in front of the record store is at work mending the roof of their nest. And the hares are very scruffy-looking now, shedding their pretty winter fur. I am wearing summer shoes.


  1. i enjoyed this. i'd never heard of this artist before. thx! :)

    it's also yet another illustration to me of how much i miss when i read something, even something as short as a name of an art work, in translation.

    1. Yes, knowing only about 2½ languages, I know how hard it can be to express something in one language, when you can so easily and perfectly express it in another. Luckily, most of my friends are just the same and sometimes we speak in a mix of Swedish/English with a few words of German or French thrown in. Others, however, think it very lax. LOL

    2. i remember when i first learned the expression "je ne sais quoi" and i thought yes! exactly! it is interesting how there may be no easy way to say what we want to express in one language but another language has the exact word or expression

    3. Yes, or in this case, an expression that points out the unexpressable. I wish I could come up with examples, but right now my mind is blank (so tired). I should make a list and write a post on the topic sometime. There is a lot of cultural distinctions nesting in language, in dialects, too.

    4. i saw a list online of words that have no equivalent in english. i remember one language had a single word that meant "day after tomorrow". one of the words was schadenfreude, which we've just adopted as if it were english. i learned some in high school french that we use as if they were english, like "voila" (only i too often hear folks here say "wa la" instead, which makes me scream). i'd love to read a post from you on the subject.

    5. Yes, I absolutely must. Must consult the husband too, he loves stuff like this!