What Do Menorahs Have To Do With Madonnas?

The Pietà, or the Virgin Mary mournfully cradling Christ’s dead body, is an artistic invention, which, as the Encyclopedia Britannica explains, “has no literary source.” One of the most important representations of the Pietà is Michelangelo’s late 15th-century marble sculpture at St. Peter’s Basilica. Michelangelo’s Christ lies on the Virgin’s lap, as limp as the folds in her flowing dress; Mary is not only a particular mother grieving for her dead son, but all mothers who have ever grieved for a child.

piETa

Jennifer Marman & Daniel Borins, ‘piETa’ (2007). 183 x 244 x 213 cm, loan from Judy Schulich & David Stein, Art Gallery of Ontario.

Sacred cows, however, are particularly prone to reappropriation and, on occasion, mockery. Denver-based artist Cedric Chambers’ “The Prophets” shows Darth Vader holding the dead Christ over a pile of skeletons in front of the toppled Twin Towers, some parts of which resemble crosses. (It seems that a Huffington Post write-up at one point questioned whether it was “the most offensive painting ever,” although that grandiose claim no longer appears.)

Poland-based Kordian Lewandowski’s “Game Over” maps out the Pietà over game characters, specifically Princess Peach holding a dead Mario. Online searches for Pietà reveal that the pose hasn’t gone mainstream like “Tebowing” or “planking,” but it is often interpreted unexpectedly, such as in this (NSFW) Annina Roescheisen work and this Nicholas de Lacy-Brown painting.

Jennifer Marman and Daniel Borins’ “piETa,” which is on view through April at the Art Gallery of Ontario in Toronto, also playfully interacts with the solemn art historical conventions surrounding the Pietà. The work casts ET (of the 1982 film) as the Madonna, and Yoda, of Star Wars, is the stand-in for Jesus.

Read more about the “piETa” on the Forward blog Arty Semite.

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