Virgin Mary and Jesus is, one could be tempted to say, a standard motif in Western art. However, most portraits depict the virgin looking at her child. In this picture, by British/Austrian Marianne Stokes, Mary looks up and out, as if to introduce her young child to the viewer.
There are no roses in the painting, but across the background are patterned thorny tendrils and wild parsley. The rose has often been used as a symbol of love – of holy or worldly pleasures, but not so this time. In Stokes’ Madonna and Child the rose – represented only by its thorns – is a symbol of the pain and sorrows of motherhood and a warning of the crown of thorns that the Jesus wore as a man.