A brief encounter between: 'Virgin and Christ Child in Glory' and 'Dangling'
Bartolom Esteban Murillo and Gilbert & George
Bartolom Esteban Murillo 1618-1682, 'Virgin and Christ Child in Glory' 1673
Gilbert and George born 1943/born 1942, 'Dangling' 1991
Both paintings represent figures at the core of the Christian faith: Christ and the Virgin Mary. Such images are meant to encourage piety and gratitude, contemplation and reflection, yet Gilbert and George's Christ-like figure in front of a cemetery cross might be seen by some as what the artists themselves describe as '... on the edge of unacceptability'. Equally, Murillo's images are often considered distastefully over-sentimental and sugary.
Between them these paintings represent the extreme polarities of all devotional images: one an image intended to provoke guilt, the other to bring comfort to an already troubled world. In one the child's gaze seems to look through us to his melancholy destiny; in the other the man stares at us commandingly.
Gilbert and George are a gay couple; Murillo was a single parent who brought up four children after the death of his wife. Do these facts have any impact on the way we react to these images now?
Both works purchased with the help of the Art Fund.