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The Cradle by Berthe Morisot is a detailed portrait of Berthe’s sister reminiscing on all her pre-motherhood freedom.

Not that the miracle of childbirth is anything to scoff at. It honestly impresses the hell out of me that it’s even possible to grow a person inside you. But it was pretty much the only option for women in the late 1800s. This portrait is of Morisot’s sister, Edma and her daughter, Blanche. It’s Morisot’s first piece depicting the mother-child relationship but certainly not her last. As women still had to be chaperoned when they went outside, Morisot spent a lot of time on domestic scenes. Nothing ruins artistic freedom quite like the patriarchy.

Edma and Bethe grew up in an affluent family in France. Like many fancy households, the sisters were allowed an education in the arts. They loved painting together, but then Edma got married, moved away, had a baby, and stopped painting. Letters between the two sisters show that Edma missed painting with her sister in their studio. This nostalgia was probably heightened by the fact that her sister stuck with her art, became famous, and had a bunch of cool art friends while Edma was stuck at home. Edma’s facial expression is almost exactly that of Suzanne Valadon’s in the painting The Hangover, if that is any indication of the level of passion Edma had for child-rearing.

The Cradle was showcased in the Impressionism exhibition in 1874. Berthe was the first woman to show with them and her painting was pretty much completely ignored. People thought it was elegant...but not enough to actually buy it. The painting stayed in the family until 1930, when the Louvre bought it. In 1986, the piece was put in the Musée d'Orsay, where you can see it today and rethink all of your reproductive decisions.




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Here is what Wikipedia says about The Cradle (Morisot)

The Cradle is an oil on canvas painting by the French Impressionist painter Berthe Morisot, executed in 1872. It is on display at the Musée d'Orsay in Paris.

Check out the full Wikipedia article about The Cradle (Morisot)

Comments (1)


I think this painting is very aesthetically pleasing partly because of its subject matter (babies are always adorable) but also because it exhibits some amazing design elements. Berthe Morisot did a great job using the rules of composition (notice both the mother's head and the baby's head fall roughly on the thirds lines), which draws the eye back and forth from the mother's face to the baby's face. This back and forth really made me wonder what the mother was thinking about.