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I saw a photo that caught my attention this week.
This is an old, dark ink painting of a curly female in a loose, balanced gown with a baby on her knees. He is also curly, and Ringlet makes his little head look like the aura of the sun. The child stands on two small, plump legs, and the mother presses him against his right arm and stabilizes his bottom with his left hand.
The curly-haired woman smiles. Not as if she wasn’t caring for the world, but as if she really cares about the child in her arms.
The child holds a flower in his left hand, past the loving clasp on his mother’s shoulder, overlooking a world we cannot see.
The mother and child sit on what looks like a weather-damaged wooden shelf in the middle of a wild, tall grass with spots. Those sharp and unruly grass leaves reminded us of the increasing infectious diseases and stormy weather that we hold tightly to our loved ones this week. But we all sail against what Shakespeare called our “sea of problems.”
The sketch turned out to be by Albrecht Dürer, the great German artist who called it “The Madonna and Child Blooming on a Grassy Bank”. It is believed to have been painted around 1503 as a study of later painting. Five years ago, it was sold for a $ 30 real estate sale. The seller thought it was a duplicate.
The arts expert quoted in the news account believes that this rare original Durer sketch could sell for $ 50 million.
But for $ 30 or $ 50 million, I found the true value of “the Madonna and Child blooming on a grassy bank” in its gentle strokes and the simple delicacy of the image. In Durer’s art, Mary and the infant Jesus are seen as mothers and children, not as icons. The love of appearance, arms and hands reminds mothers and children who have seen them all over the world in almost the same poses on park benches and playgrounds, war zones and refugee camps, subways and buses.
Children and mothers, like all of us, who don’t know what’s there or what’s ahead. So we are holding each other now.