Think Mary looks a little mannish in this painting by Raphael? You're not alone — in an interview in Sunday's Washington Post, feminist art historian Mary Garrard points out that Rafael used a male model for the Virgin. She also argues that in taking masculinized form, Mary "loses her maternity — birth-giving, the one thing men couldn't do — which is her distinctive and essential attribute." "Mothers are very confident that motherhood is really more important work than a lot of jobs in the world," she continues — "the full scope of that work isn't in this painting." [WaPo]
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Would it have been scandalous at the time for him to use a female model? Or maybe he didn't want to have sexual thoughts about a female model that was supposed to represent the Virgin Mary while he was painting her? I don't know.