© The Henry Moore Foundation. All Rights Reserved


Henry Moore (1898 – 1986)


15.4 x 6.4 x 8.4 CM
Accession number


The image of mother-and-child greatly interested Moore and became an important theme which he drew, carved and reworked many times during his life. In 1943 he was approached by St Matthews parish church in Northampton to produce a Madonna and Child sculpture. Moore accepted only two religious commissions and this, his first, posed him with new questions on the portrayal of mother-child relationships in a religious, formal context. The siting of the work in a place of worship was hugely significant and added layers of meaning to Moore’s interpretation of the subject, so initially he agreed only to produce some drawings, without promising to realise the commission. During his exploration of the subject, Moore made a number of maquettes, which he called sketch models, and he used these models to ‘redraw’ forms. This maquette was the working model for the final carving, in Hornton Stone, in which Moore wanted to communicate directly with the congregation and so stands at a modest 1.5 metres tall. The stance, with the draped legs and child held out-turned to the congregation, is classical and peaceful, yet the figures are sturdy and peasant-like, which caused some outcry from church-goers at the time. As with Moore’s other mother-and-child depictions it is the Madonna’s presence which commands us. Real and uncompromising, she presents her child for us to see but not touch, her strong protective hands holding him steadfastly in her armchair-like lap, her head raised as if to scan the crowds for any danger.
Text by Sarah Gillett, Visual Arts Manager, British Council, from the catalogue for the exhibitionHenry Moore in Qatar, 2007