Smiling Mother


In 13th century Europe a popular depiction of the Virgin Mary in sculpture was of her smiling at the Child Jesus. In some carvings she tickles his toes, or he grabs at her chin. I find these irresistibly charming, and they bring home the concept of the incarnation better than nearly any other art that I’ve seen.

“Christians have always sought the smile of Our Lady, this smile which medieval artists were able to represent with such marvelous skill and to show to advantage. This smile of Mary is for all; but it is directed quite particularly to those who suffer, so that they can find comfort and solace therein. To seek Mary’s smile is not an act of devotional or outmoded sentimentality, but rather the proper expression of the living and profoundly human relationship which binds us to her whom Christ gave us as our Mother.”
—Pope Benedict XVI

Here are some favorites from the collection of the Metropolitan Museum of Art. If you visit their site and search around, you’ll come across others.

smile smile1 smile2 smile3 smile4