Admiring Mothers in Art

By: Yvonne Monestier

Lot 29 – AFTER RAPHAEL (1483–1520), Italian
MADONNA DELLA SEDIA (MADONNA OF THE CHAIR). Oil on canvas. Tondo/Overall 29.5 ins x 29.5 ins; 74.9 cms x 74.9 cms; 30 ins x 29.5 ins; 76.2 cms x 74.9 cms. Estimate: $1,000-$1,500

In one way or another, we have all been defined by the relationships we have shared with our mothers and our mother figures. For centuries, poets, writers and artists have immortalized these archetypal bonds, channeling their love, power and devotion into their art.

Ancient civilizations portrayed mothers as sacred beings. Powerful religious icons paved the way for more romanticized visions in the 19th century among the Impressionists. The one constant of motherhood throughout the ages and across every artform is the bond between a mother and her child. Even on the worst of days, all that a child need do is lock eyes with their mother and as if by magic, the worries of the world begin to soften.

Although I personally adore the more tender and sentimental depictions of motherhood, I know from my own experience that real life is more raw than that. Contemporary versions of the mother and child theme are more nuanced, and are the ones that I relate to on a deeper level. Women’s roles in society have shifted, allowing the definition of motherhood to change at pace. Today’s expressions of modern motherhood involve all of the realities of juggling a million balls at once and on occasion feeling like you’re dropping all of them. Talk to any working mother and she’ll be the first to tell you that every day is filled with waves of guilt over not checking off everything on the daily ‘to-do’ list, or simply feeling that they’ve not done enough.

In advance of Mother’s Day weekend, we asked the various specialist teams at Waddington’s to reflect on their own experiences of motherhood. We decided that the most realistic interpretation of the theme would be to take an approach as varied as motherhood itself. The result is Mother & Child, a cross-category auction featuring artwork from our Inuit, Canadian, and International Art, and Decorative Arts & Design departments.

Lot 44 – LEVI QUMALUK (1919-1997), Povungnituk/Puvirnituq. MOTHER WITH CHILD IN HER AMAUTIQ. 22.5 x 13 x 9 in — 57.2 x 33 x 22.9 cm.  Estimate $1,500-$2,000

Highlights from our Inuit art department include a stone sculpture by Levi Qumaluk (lot 44, “Mother With Child in Her Amautiq”) whose depiction of a mother carrying her child in her amauti (parka) while working offers a realistic portrayal of the realities of caregiving for many women. Meanwhile, graphic artists like Pitaloosie Saila (lot 3, “Mother”) illustrate their own personal struggles with loss and the redefinition of motherhood. Saila’s mother passed away on a hunting trip when she was only a toddler, so the artist found a maternal figure in her beloved grandmother.

The International offerings in this auction range from family portraits like that painted by an artist after Jacob Jordaens (lot 37, “The Painter’s Family”) and another by Carlo Jean-Jacques (lot 39, “A Young Mother and Her Children”). These are complimented by a decorative sculpture of a family (lot 13) by Marjorie Winslow that comes to Waddington’s from the collection of art critic, artist, and collector Paul Duval.

Italian masters exemplify the familiar Madonna and Child theme that has influenced artists for centuries (lot 29, After Raphael “Madonna della Sedia”).

The ever-popular bronzes by Polish-Canadian artist Esther Wertheimer round out our Canadian offerings. Wertheimer’s sculptures (lots 2 and 33) truly are visual poetry in motion and vivid portrayals of the strength and resiliency of motherhood.

We hope you are able to take time this Mother’s Day weekend to celebrate all of the powerful mothers and maternal figures that have shaped not only your life but art and culture as we know it. Whether you’re looking to buy a gift for a cherished woman in your life, add a memento to your own collection, or simply browse this interesting and diverse auction, we invite you to view the full catalogue on our website.


The Mother & Child in Art auction will be offered online from May 1-6, 2021.

Please contact us for auction details, additional photographs, condition reports or virtual consultations.


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