(Copying-studying Raphael’s Madonna with baby Jesus, Paula Kuitenbrouwer)
Have a look at the two paintings-drawings by Raphael showing baby Jesus reaching for his mother’s chest. All mums who have breastfed their child know babies and young toddlers do this, even months after the nursing has stopped. Young toddlers like to touch base; they poke their small hands under mum’s dress and just let their hands sit there. As if they need to be sure that the most important, life sustaining part of their mum hasn’t mysteriously disappeared. As soon as the toddler feels the warmth of their mum’s chest, it will settled down or fall asleep being warm, cosy and reassuringly close to mum’s heart, mum’s breasts, mum’s heartbeat, or mums softness. Later, when a toddler knocks its heads or is in pain, mum again presses its head to her chest, to the place were the young child feels good and feels close to mum’s warmth, heart and love.
Raphael must have observed this typical mum-toddler behaviour because there are different drawings and paintings in which he shows how a wriggly baby Jesus tries to put his hands near mum’s chest.
The fact that Raphael has drawn and painted this scene more than ones, makes me think he was the father of the child. See, in both paintings the mother and baby are the same models. The baby looks at Raphael (the painter) while searching for mum’s chest. ‘Mine’, seems the toddler to say. Although I’m told some fathers don’t like this, most fathers I know enjoy immensely when a mother and child are in harmony and enjoying each others warmth. Soon the warmth or milk will has it calming effect, and mum and child will be lovingly smiling at each other. That moment of calm is probably exactly what Raphael wanted. Let the baby drink, let the down-time for mum and baby start. That will make it much easier to sketch a Madonna with a content baby Jesus.