The Mother of God, Milk-Giver

Central Russia
1730-1740 c.
Room 2
Tempera on wood
13,7x11,4 cm
1890 n. 9329

This icon depicts the Virgin removing her white robe to breastfeed her son Jesus. Mary’s hair is gathered in a bonnet and her head and shoulders are covered by a maphorion, a typical Byzantine mantle.

The icon of the Madonna breastfeeding her child has such ancient origins that the first evidence of it is found in 3rd century Roman catacombs. It may have originated from a passage in Luke's Gospel in which a woman addresses Jesus proclaiming “Blessed is the mother who gave you birth and nursed you” (Luke 11:27). This theme also developed in the Byzantine sphere as early as the 9th century, where it was very widespread, particularly from the 14th century, while in Russian icon painting, such iconography become popular from the 16th-17th centuries.

As in other examples in the Uffizi icon collection dating from the second quarter of the 18th century, there is a certain simplification of the pictorial rendering in this work, as indicated by the almost total absence of shape modulation in the rendering of the figures.

Daniela Parenti