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Magritte exchanges the heads of a mother and a baby – compressing one and enlarging the other. The effect is at once uncanny, threatening, comic and perceptive. The shrunken mature woman and imposing child may unsettle the viewer but are intimately bonded with each other. Their inverted relationship seems to stand for the cycle of generations. The original title, ‘Maternity’, may have referred too literally to such themes before Magritte provided the current, more enigmatic, replacement.

April 2009