18 March 2020, The Tablet



Marc Quinn’s ‘Alison Lapper, Pregnant’
Photo: PA, John Stillwell


Portraying Pregnancy: From Holbein to Social Media
Tablet bookshop price £15.75 • Tel 020 7799 4064

Love and sex have always been topics not only for literature but for painted and sculpted images. Paradoxically the pregnancies that frequently resulted have often, until recently, been portrayed in Western art in coded fashions, and rather rarely. The exceptions in Christian iconography are the images of the Virgin Mary, in particular the Visitation, with the older and pregnant St Elizabeth, carry­ing the future John the Baptist. But secular renditions have been astonishingly few.

This remarkable short book examines the phenomenon from the seventeenth century to social media, decoding, with the help of written documents, the portraits of aristocratic women, their bumps disguised by the fashions of the day, to the magnificently confrontational 1991 photograph of Demi Moore, naked and seven months pregnant, and the 2017 photo­graph of Serena Williams, both by Annie Leibovitz for the cover of Vanity Fair.

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