Maquette for Madonna and Child
1943, cast 1944–5
140 x 75 x 75 mm
Inscribed ‘Moore’ on side of seat
Purchased from the artist through the Berkeley Galleries (Knapping Fund) 1945
In an unnumbered edition prior to an edition of 7 plus 1 artist’s copy
Technique and condition
The bronze surface has been coloured using chemical patination techniques, first with a slightly transparent brown colour, which was applied over the entire surface, and then with a more opaque green colour, which has been rubbed back with a light abrasive on the high points of the sculpture to pick out the details of the form (fig.1). The patina was then finished with a coating of wax. The brown base colour is often used on bronzes and is likely to have been applied using a solution of potassium polysulphide (otherwise known as ‘liver of sulphur’) in water. There are many different patina recipes used to produce green colours on bronzes but they often contain mixtures of copper and ammonium salts.
How to citeLyndsey Morgan, 'Technique and Condition', March 2011, in Robert Sutton, ‘Maquette for Madonna and Child 1943, cast 1944–5 by Henry Moore OM, CH’, catalogue entry, December 2012, revised by Alice Correia, March 2014, in Henry Moore: Sculptural Process and Public Identity, Tate Research Publication, 2015, https://www
Maquette for Madonna and Child is a small bronze sculpture cast from an original study modelled in clay. It depicts a woman sitting on a low bench cradling a child, who is seated upright on her left leg (fig.1). The woman’s arms support the child’s legs and back while the child holds itself away from her broad torso. The woman wears a shorter than knee-length dress into which lines denoting drapery have been incised on the upper right arm and across her lap, while her fingers and her hair, which falls leadenly over her right shoulder, have been simply but deliberately modelled. Both the woman’s and the child’s animated expressions have been picked out with delicate, abbreviated incisions, with the result that they seem to look towards and yet past one another (fig.2). Despite these abbreviations, the critic John Russell suggested that in his figurative sculpture Moore was able to create ‘portraits’ without depicting a specific person by allowing ‘the body to define the character of his figures’.1
Between April and June 1943 Moore created what is now identified as the Madonna and Child Sketchbook, and it is from these sketches that he modelled twelve clay maquettes between June and July. Each of the three-dimensional maquettes appear to have been drawn to varying extents.9 Among the sketches Moore produced at this time, the closest immediate precedent for this Maquette for Madonna and Child can be found on the right-hand side of a single page on which two representations of the Madonna and Child were sketched (fig.4). This hurriedly drawn and seemingly incomplete depiction of the Madonna appears to present an ordinary woman in an everyday pose in contrast to the instantly recognisable Madonna and Child on the left of the page, which relates more closely to idealised images of the Virgin and Child. The mother on the right wears an above knee-length dress, and the awkward angle of her lower legs and the familiarity of her maternal posture not only anticipate the sculpture but also appear comparable to that of the central figure in one of Moore’s shelter drawings produced three years earlier, entitled Women and Children in the Tube (fig.5). In this drawing the short sleeves and skirt of the mother’s dress are clearly defined, a motif that Moore would employ on this and another of the clay maquettes. Considered together with these drawings, it seems that Moore created this sculpture as part of an exploratory process. This may explain why the art historian Will Grohmann wrote in 1960 that the earliest of the maquettes Moore produced were still ‘no more than a mother and child’.10 It could be that at the time of the commission Moore was still engaged with the imagery of war that had inspired his Shelter Drawings. By contrasting more traditional representations of the Madonna and Child with non-idealised depictions of the theme, as in the drawing Madonna and Child Studies, Moore perhaps sought to reconcile these differences.
Moore and the Tate collection
How to cite
Robert Sutton, ‘Maquette for Madonna and Child 1943, cast 1944–5 by Henry Moore OM, CH’, catalogue entry, December 2012, revised by Alice Correia, March 2014, in Henry Moore: Sculptural Process and Public Identity, Tate Research Publication, 2015, https://www