A new exhibition at the Foundling Museum in London looks closely at 500 years of portraiture to explore how pregnancy was depicted — and not depicted — from the Tudors to today.
Curator Karen Hearn has been thinking about this subject “on and off” for more than 20 years. The exhibition focuses mostly on British artwork, and begins in the 17th century. There were a couple forces driving visibly-pregnant portraits in the 1600s, Hearn explains: “Britain, of course, becomes permanently Protestant after 1558 when Elizabeth I comes to the throne,” she says. “Catholicism privileges virginity. But Martin Luther writes that the state of a pregnant woman is holy and is preferable to virginity. … The more children a woman had, the more she was blessed by God.”
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