Henry Moore OM, CH

Maquette for Madonna and Child

1943, cast 1944–5

Not on display

Henry Moore OM, CH 1898–1986
Object: 156 × 86 × 70 mm
Purchased 1945

Display caption

The mother and child had been a major theme in Moore’s work since the 1920s. Yet when the vicar of St Matthew, Northampton, invited Moore to make a sculpture of the Madonna and Child, he was reluctant to accept. He felt unsure how to adapt his secular interests to the Christian tradition. These bronzes are casts of the original terracotta models he made for the project. They are unusually naturalistic and steeped in references to Renaissance religious art. This suggests Moore was trying to produce a sculpture that people would find both modern and familiar.

Gallery label, September 2016

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Catalogue entry


Maquette for Madonna and Child is a small bronze sculpture cast from a study originally modelled in clay. It depicts a woman seated on a low bench with a child on her lap (fig.1). She is dressed in a long sleeveless robe and sits with her knees apart. The child sits upright with its back to the woman’s chest, balanced on her right thigh and supported by her hands, which rest on the child’s right shoulder and chest. The woman’s head is turned slightly towards her right while the child faces straight ahead.

The sculpture was intended as a representation of the Virgin Mary and Jesus Christ, and is one of a series of preparatory maquettes sculpted by Moore in the spring and early summer of 1943. These maquettes were made to test designs for a large stone sculpture of the Madonna and Child, commissioned to mark the fiftieth anniversary of the consecration of St Matthew’s Church in Northampton. This was Moore’s first major public commission and provided the artist with an opportunity to develop his long-standing interest in the mother and child theme in line with more traditional representations of the subject, which suited the commission’s demands. Of the five maquettes presented to the commissioner in July 1943, this design was ultimately chosen to be enlarged into the final sculpture, which was carved in Hornton stone and dedicated in St Matthew’s Church on 19 February 1944 (fig.2).

The commission

The commission came about after the vicar of St Matthew’s, the Reverend Walter Hussey, saw a number of Moore’s Shelter Drawings in an exhibition at the National Gallery, London, in the autumn of 1942. The exhibition had been organised by the War Artists’ Advisory Committee (WAAC), a governmental body set up under the auspices of the Ministry of Information to boost British morale during wartime by commissioning images of British endurance from recognised artists. In 1940, having been forced to give up sculpture due to a lack of available materials, Moore produced a series of drawings of women and children sheltering in the London Underground during the Blitz, which he showed to Kenneth Clark, Director of the National Gallery and Chairman of the WAAC, who invited him to become an Official War Artist.

Sources and development

Casting the maquettes

Moore and the Tate collection

Robert Sutton
December 2012

Revised by Alice Correia
March 2014


See Andrew Causey, The Drawings of Henry Moore, London 2010, p.114.
Walter Hussey, Patron of Art: The Revival of a Great Tradition Among Modern Artists, London 1985, p.23.
Henry Moore cited in ibid., pp.23–4.
Henry Moore cited in Donald Carroll, The Donald Carroll Interviews, London 1973, p.35, reprinted in Alan Wilkinson (ed.), Henry Moore: Writings and Conversations, Aldershot 2002, p.269.
Walter Hussey, letter to Henry Moore, December 1942, cited in Hussey 1985, p.26.
Henry Moore, letter to Walter Hussey, cited in Hussey 1985, pp.26–7.
Henry Moore, letter to Walter Hussey, cited in Hussey 1985, p.27.
The pages from the sketchbook are reproduced in Ann Garrould (ed.), Henry Moore. Volume 3: Complete Drawings 1940–49, Aldershot 2001, pp.190–5.
Moore cited in John Hedgecoe (ed.), Henry Moore, London 1968, p.106.
See Ann Garrould (ed.), Henry Moore. Volume 3: Complete Drawings 1940–49, Much Hadham 2001, p.193, no.43.96.
Moore photographed these terracotta maquettes in various groupings prior to their casting. Fig.4 illustrates six of the twelve models and were reproduced in Herbert Read (ed.), Henry Moore: Sculptures and Drawings, London 1944. This book would become the basis for the first volume of Moore’s catalogue raisonné, in which the same two photographs have been reproduced ever since. See David Sylvester (ed.), Henry Moore. Volume 1: Complete Sculpture 1921–48, 1957, 5th edn, London 1988, p.138.
A.D.B. Sylvester, ‘The Evolution of Henry Moore’s Sculpture: I’, Burlington Magazine, vol.90, no.543, June 1948, p.158.
Henry Moore, letter to Walter Hussey, 23 June 1943, cited in Hussey 1985, pp.27–8.
Moore cited in Mary Sorrell, ‘Henry Moore’, Apollo, vol.44, November 1946, p.118.
Henry Moore cited in Church of St Matthew, Northampton, 1893–1943, Northampton 1943, reprinted in Wilkinson 2002, p.267.
Herbert Read, Henry Moore: A Study of his Life and Work, London 1965, p.152.
Henry Moore cited in Hussey 1985, p.28.
Walter Hussey, ‘A Churchman Discusses Art in the Church’, Studio, vol.138, no.678, September 1949, p.80.
Moore 1943, reprinted in Wilkinson 2002, p.267.
Anon., ‘Madonna Statue Causes a Sensation’, Northampton Independent, 25 February 1944, Henry Moore Foundation Archive.
Anon., ‘Madonna Statue – Experts’ Impressions’, Northampton Independent, 25 February 1944, Henry Moore Foundation Archive.
Geoffrey Grigson and Eric Newton, ‘Henry Moore’s Madonna and Child’, Architectural Review, vol.95, no.569, May 1944, p.139.
Ibid., pp.139–40.
Moore cited Sorrell 1946, p.117.
Henry Moore, letter to Walter Hussey, 26 August 1943, cited in Hussey 1985, pp.32–3.
See John and Véra Russell, ‘Conversations with Henry Moore’, Sunday Times, 17 December 1961, reprinted in Wilkinson 2002, pp.47, 230.
Sorrell 1946, p.117.
Henry Moore, ‘A Sculptor Speaks’, Listener, 18 August 1937, pp.338–40, reprinted in Wilkinson 2002, p.196.
Henry Moore, Head of the Virgin 1922–3 (The Henry Moore Foundation), http://catalogue.henry-moore.org:8080/emuseum/view/objects/asitem/search@/3/invno-asc?t:state:flow=fad5a4f3-134d-4bdf-972c-34b2a62810c0, accessed 6 March 2014.
Henry Moore cited in James Johnson Sweeny, ‘Henry Moore’, Partisan Review, March–April 1947, p.183, reprinted in Wilkinson 2002, p.54.
Margaret Garlake, ‘Moore’s Eclecticism: Difference, Aesthetic Identity and Community in the Architectural Commissions 1938–1958’, in Jane Beckett and Fiona Russell (eds.), Henry Moore: Critical Essays, Aldershot 2003, p.174.
Christa Lichtenstern, Henry Moore: Work-Theory-Impact, London 2008, p.162.
Sylvester 1988, pp.12–13.
Henry Moore, letter to Martin Butlin, 22 January 1963, Tate Artist Catalogue File, Henry Moore, A23941.
See Ann Garrould (ed.), Henry Moore. Volume 3: Complete Drawings 1940–49, Much Hadham 2001, p.195, no.43.105.
Sylvester 1988, pp.12–13. It was not until some years after the Second World War that Moore began to efficiently maintain his financial and business paperwork.
David Sylvester, ‘The Evolution of Henry Moore’s Sculpture II’, Burlington Magazine, vol.90, no.544, July 1948, p.190.
Roger Berthoud, The Life of Henry Moore, 1987, revised edn, London 2003, p.183. Manson’s remark was cited by Sainsbury during an interview undertaken by Berthoud in May 1983.
Henry Moore, letter to John Rothenstein, 12 August 1944, Tate Public Records TG 1/6/36.
Minutes from Trustees Meeting, 19 April 1945, Tate Public Records TG1/3/5.
Minutes from Trustees Meeting, 15 February 1945, Tate Public Records TG 1/3/5.

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