Artworks
The Virgin and Child with Saint Anne

Contributor

Leonardo da Vinci depicts an actual baby Jesus, acting like a baby.  

“But Mom, I don’t wanna pose for the family portrait right now! Can’t I be naked and pretend to ride this little lamb instead??” - Baby J. Yeah, it looks like Baby Jesus had better stuff to do than constantly being the subject of religious paintings. Even so, Leonardo managed to get these three generations together for a bona fide family portrait...though probably not as well posed as Beyonce’s with her mom and, celebrity spawn, Blue Ivy. With no chain-link bras or third trimester bellies to make this a real statement piece, Leonardo had his work cut out for him to make this portrait one for the ages. It’s hard to compete with Bey, this we all know. But it’s still Leo, and we can always count on him to produce something that keeps us guessing for centuries to come.

Let’s just take a look and figure out what’s happening in this picture: a naked Baby Jesus tries to mount an equally naked lamb, while his mother, the Virgin Mary, tries to make a grab for him, as she sits on St. Anne’s lap, who we all know is the Virgin Mary’s own mummy dearest. #wtf da Vinci?? Everything may look totally okay here because of his’s technical virtuosity and the hazy sfumato he was known for (and also, the pretty colors), but can somebody figure out what this painting actually means?

Of course, no one but ol’ Sigmund Freud could analyze an image like this. Freud likens the blue garment worn by the Virgin Mary to the body of a vulture, which, according to Freud, da Vinci had a subconscious fear of. Da Vinci writes about being attacked by a vulture’s tail when he was just a wee babe, and says the vulture would try to stuff its tail in his mouth. So, vulture tail+baby’s mouth = Fear of mother who may have forcibly breastfed past the appropriate age? Knowing how much Freud loved infant-incest stories, it’s not tough to see why he picked up on this dear diary confession.

Freud considered this analysis of The Virgin and Child with St. Anne the most beautiful work he’d ever written. But, his bubble was burst when it was found that Freud had mistranslated the word “vulture”, where da Vinci had actually written “kite.” Not the buzzard we were looking for, sorry Freud. However, the whole bird of prey theory still helps us see why Baby J looks upon the maternal figure with some trepidation. Though one can’t be entirely sure why St. Anne looks so damn pleased...maybe she’s just chuffed to be in the picture.