Richard Warren

"Clearly I tap to you clearly along the plumbing of the world" (W S Graham)

Tag Archives: Mother and Child

The silence of the baa-lambs

You can’t make an image of a mother and a baby without it lurching off into a signification of The Mother and Child. Or at least, Ford Madox Brown couldn’t. So here, as a Christmas image, is his extraordinary Pretty Baa-Lambs of 1859.

It’s the colour of that sky that does it. Luxurious, calm, almost silent – but ominous. And those evening shadows, creeping sideways. The child staring at the future. The mortality of The Lamb. (Compare with Richard Dadd’s visionary Mother and Child of the following year – here.)

Though, considering ominous, maybe Baa-Lambs is not so unfit for the times through which we’re now obliged to live, having somehow surrendered our future to a bunch of shameless chiselers.

But at some point a reckoning will arrive. Meanwhile, a bit of Peace on Earth to you today – Happy Christmas.

Great Little One


No apologies for reposting the wonderful Mother and Child, 1860, by the mad, bad Richard Dadd. (Nor for showing a golden haired Madonna and Christ child. It’s good to inculturate holy images; the only problem is when we try to impose ours as a universal.) I particularly like the red socks and sandals.

Welcome, all wonders in one sight,
Eternity shut in a span,
Summer in winter, day in night,
Heaven in earth and God in man,
Great little one whose all-embracing birth
Brings earth to heaven, stoops heaven to earth.

Happy Christmas!

Nicholas Tromans on Richard Dadd

Let’s take a moment to salute Tate Publishing‘s new book on mad-as-a-hatter, parricidal fairy-painter Richard Dadd, by Nicholas Tromans, 19th century and orientalism specialist. Salute, that is, in the sense that anything on Dadd is good news.

And this is a nice big book, with some beautifully reproduced paintings. Though I could have done with a few more, to be honest, instead of the not-so-helpful ground plans of Broadmoor etc. Tromans is big on the context of the asylum system, on which he has invested much research, but maybe a little light on analysis of Dadd’s work itself.

But let’s not be grumpy. I would have been overjoyed to cough up the required £25 simply for the full page reproduction of Dadd’s Mother and Child of 1860, which I don’t recall seeing before. This mesmerising, hallucinatory oil painting is astonishing for its explicit Victorian inculturation of the image of Our Lady with Child. (As opposed to the implicit contextualisation of, say, Ford Madox-Brown’s slightly earlier Pretty Baa-Lambs.) Why the fluffed-up blackbird at the left and the distant man-of-war? Who cares? It’s a total masterpiece.