Mother and Child, inspired by the Leonardo Da Vinci painting entitled La Madonna Litta (1490)


Mother and Child (155 x 110 x 65 cm) – Maximilian Pelzmann 


Hovering above the current artistic scene is the legend that contemporary artists are less gifted than their predecessors and that this is why they resort to abstract languages, hiding under the deceptive disguise of ‘concept’ their dubious technical skills for the craft of art.

How many times have we heard the phrase “That could have been painted by my 5-year-old nephew” in front of a figurative painting on the threshold of abstraction or a purely abstract work?

This opinion, which is largely formulated lightly and with little foundation, doesn’t describe the reality of many contemporary artists. Including in their number Maximilian Pelzmann.

A painter and sculptor born in Ireland, Maximilian Pelzmann, who also has roots in Austria and the Basque Country through his parents, graduated from the prestigious Walnut Hill School for the Arts in Massachusetts, specializing in contemporary sculpture. His formative itinerary also contemplates two other major milestones: his visit to the Polich Tallix Art Foundry, where he would witness the production of sculptures by artists such as Jeff Koons, Willem de Kooning or Frank Stella, and his access to the Pratt Institute in Brooklyn, New York, where he was under the tutelage of the master of Japanese woodwork Toshio Odate.

The influence of the latter is still very much present during the embryonic stage of Max’s creative process. And the third dimension is so integrated into Pelzmann that it renders unnecessary the use of drawing as his first contact with an idea. Instead, the step that follows the mental visualization of his work is its direct embodiment in polystyrene foam.

The final result, however, is conceived with industrial materials and techniques. This ambivalence between tradition and modernity, between the old and the new, transcends the technical considerations and penetrates the visual language of Pelzmann, who through his unique vision reformulates overly exploited motifs in the history of art, such as nature in its entirety and complexity, from its simplified organic and non-organic forms, through its details visible only to the attentive observer, to its biological and geometrical patterns.

The artist in no way scorns the legacy of the great masters, amongst whom he especially admires Raphael, Leonardo Da Vinci or Bernini, and neither does he ignore their potential within the techniques of contemporary expression. Motivated by this certainty, he has often come to reformulate using the aesthetic keys that are specific to his artistic language, a masterpiece of art history.

This is the case with the sculpture Mother and Child, which is inspired by the Leonardo Da Vinci painting entitled La Madonna Litta (1490), currently on display at Saint Petersburg’s Hermitage Museum in Russia.


 The painting shows the figure of the Virgin Mary bent over the baby Jesus, whom she holds naked against her body while she breastfeeds him. The representation of the child is foreshortened, so that he is able to look at the spectator while sucking milk from his mother’s breast, which appears covered by one of the baby’s hands to adhere to the notion of modesty that the age demanded. The open eyes of the newborn baby contrast with the half-closed look of the Virgin Mary, who contemplates her ecstatic offspring, distilling maternal tenderness through every pore.

Pelzmann’s sculptural version of this same work does not include any detail that to his visual language would appear to be an accessory. It follows the general lines of the composition, rescuing the inclination of the body of the Virgin Mary towards her son, the act of feeding the child and the roundness of his little body resting on the soft hands of his mother. The work captures with elegance the interdependent link that characterizes the relationship between mother and child by merging them into a single indivisible body, a common structure.



The physical weave of the bodies and the metaphorical fabric of their lives is intertwined in the weft and warp of motherhood, just as the identity of a mother requires a son and the son a mother, and it is in this sacred relationship where the origin of life lies.

The concept of motherhood is thus beautifully embodied in an abstract creation that, despite its appearance, is far from engendered by a lack of technique or chance. It is instead, the fruit of a reflexive reinterpretation of the Marian invocation of the Nursing Madonna, an iconography that within Western Christian art has a long history and a great repercussion and that, in turn, has its roots in the pagan representation of the Mother Goddess that already enlightened human Prehistory.

Maximilian Pelzmann is one of those rare geniuses who has reached the maximum conquest of the artist: to develop his own language strong enough and powerful enough to serve as a plastic ambassador in the current ever-changing artistic landscape. His works are imbued with identity and, as a result, presence.


Only a visual language as mature as his could have proposed the revision of an iconography as emblematic and presumably exhausted as the Nursing Madonna, and having successfully reformulated it with such originality in an abstract language that uses industrial materials and techniques, all without falling into superficiality as well as maintaining a high commitment to the sacredness of the motive itself. This motive in Pelzmann’s approach transcends any religious cult and embraces the miracle of life, free of all ideology, presenting it to the viewer in its purest authenticity. And it is, of course, this aforementioned purity that is represented in the white colour of the work.

Through the creative filter of Maximilian Pelzmann, we discover the plasticity of art, which does not recognize disciplinary limits and whose flow between the different formats renews exhausted sources of inspiration, offering as a result an exquisite, exclusive work that manages to transform an iconography restricted to Christian motherhood in a universal ode to motherhood.


Editor: Lara Elizabeth Goikoetxea