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An embrace of peace and strength

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Cassatt's "Mother and Child, 1902" is a rich, loving portrait. Both mother and child, at first glance, appear dreamy-eyed and content upon the sunflower-yellow sofa, as though, for a moment at least, nothing else exists beside their love. A tender spiritual bond, expressed by the warm embrace, links mother to daughter in strength, not weakness or vulnerability.

One wonders what provoked the gesture -- it seems spontaneous, as if the little girl had run into her mother's open arms, grasped her closely, rested her cheek upon her mother's lips in a sign of affection. And yet, underneath their calm exteriors is a seriousness, a solemnity, as if the child's presence is a comfort to her mother, who appears somewhat pensive, even a little sad. Her little daughter's expression indicates a sensitivity to her mother's feelings. But peace does predominate in the portrait, as if no subtle inharmony that might be lurking in their innermost thoughts could ever separate the two, nor mar the contentment of their close relationship.

As her daughter presses close, the mother's upright position supports the child. An atmosphere of peace and security surrounds the two, as if fear, anger , resentment could have no power.

This portrait raises many questions -- what time of day is it? What activities have taken place up to this point, and what will happen when the two go their separate ways? What thoughts are actually running through their minds? Is there a profound silence surrounding the two, one in which no words are necessary? There is a room for someone else on the couch -- a friend, a father, a brother or sister?


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