Finally, one of my favorite paintings has returned home to the Munch Museum in Oslo. I have always loved this Madonna: its nudity and, more than anything, its face, which I regard as a combination of Manet’s Olympia and the abandonement of Bernini’s St Teresa.
But Munch’s virgin is a lot more than a mystic in an ecstatic position towards God. The Madonna is a sexual being, aware of her body and what that may stir in men/women, aware of her desire. She is a seductive challenge. This Madonna and her background torment are more akin to the Eve in the Garden of Eden, the Eve that fell for the Devil’s tricks, the first seducee. A more clever Madonna, if you ask me, aware both of mind and body, cunning enough to strategize, to know what she wants and lose herself in it. A Madonna with a sentient body, with pleasure and with whom, in her womanhood, I am able to identify.