Mother Palin: An Election Special

Nov 4, 2008 by

See last month’s entry, The Virgin Palin, for a precursor to this posting

Virgin of the Rocks or 'Mother Palin' by makismakis (assisted by Leonardo da Vinci)IF ONE ACCEPTS the argument from The Virgin Palin that Sarah Palin is to the Republican Party what the Virgin Mary is to Christianity, and if one accepts that in earlier centuries iconography and paintings were a primary vehicle through which a largely illiterate public formed its views on the Virgin Mary, then it follows that one can explore what Sarah Palin means to the Republican Party by looking at images of the Virgin Mary from past centuries. If the transitive logic of such reasoning seems as dubious as its assumptions, it should be remembered that when dealing with matters of religion, or presidential elections for that matter, faith always trumps reason.

In light of the above revelation, I spent a number of hours in London’s National Gallery of Art, focusing my faith and mindlessness upon the numerous paintings of the Virgin Mary. I was not disappointed. The insights into the contemporary American political scene afforded by image after image of a nursing Mother Mary are too many, or at least too profound, to relay. Since not all of us have the opportunity to visit the National Gallery for a direct personal experience, I thought I would include a few of these images of Marian political edification. The acclaimed restoration artist makismakis has generously touched them up to maximize your viewing pleasure. I shall keep my commentary to a minimum to ensure an unmediated, or at least less mediated, encounter between viewer and creator. It is also The Big Day and no one has any time for reading (or writing for that matter) with all this thrill and dread in the air, thrill that the elections are finally going to end, dread that the 2012 campaign will now begin.


The Virgin and Child, Ambrogio Bergognone, about 1488-90

The Virgin and Child, by makismakis (assisted by Ambrogio Bergognone)

In the 1250-1500 wing of the museum, where the oldest of the museum’s paintings are on display, one encounters numerous images of a regal, saint-like Virgin Mary. As with Bergognone’s The Virgin and Child, Mary is often haloed and garbed in ecumenical robes. Admittedly, it is difficult to see the small town mom connections in these early paintings, which emphasize Mary’s saintly and queenly aspects. But if one considers the critic Marina Warner’s claim that the “regal role of Mary as the mother of the God-Emperor became a central and forceful symbol of power, which could be used to reinforce the authority of the Church on earth” then the unexpected coronation of Sarah Palin at the Republican Convention begins to make sense. A Hail Palin prayer is inscribed in the halo. While the designer ecclesiastical outfit worn by the Virgin runs into the thousands of dollars, he rosary held by infant America was purchased from the Minneapolis children’s boutique Pacifier for a mere $98, less than a quarter of the price of a haircut.

The Virgin and Child Before a Firescreen, Robert Campin,about 1440

Virgin and Child Before a Firescreen, by makismakis (assisted by Robert Campin)Alongside the regal bejeweled themes, paintings from this era are also replete with images of the Virgin breastfeeding. While the Virgin Mary is exempt from the messy business of intercourse, labor, and childbirth, she does give suck, an act that reflects and emphasizes her humility. Here we see a true hockey mom before the days of hockey, a woman engaged in the most human and motherly of activities, breast squeezing. Campin’s painting fuses the earthly and the divine, the fire screen serving not only as backdrop to this humble motherly scene but also as a halo for the PTA mom cum saint. Note how infant GOP luxuriates in her embrace.


The Virgin and Child, Dirk Bouts, about 1465

Here again the Virgin squeezes her breast, this time aiming it directly at baby GOP’s face in a possible allusion to the future advent of the breast pump. Puffy-eyed from too much election coverage, infant GOP smiles with anticipation and waves to the camera as Joseph, aka Joe the Carpenter, says “Cheese.”






The Virgin and Child, Lorenzo di Credi, 1480-1500

Virgin and Child by makismakis (assisted by Lorenzo di Credi)In di Credi’s painting we encounter a plumper Jesus and womanlier Mary, reflecting the Roman emphasis upon the human rather than the divine. Considering the devotion Palin inspires among devout Christians and plunger-happy males, she may well be the culmination of this humanizing process by emanating at once the chaste, maternal qualities of the Virgin Mary as well as the this-worldly forbidden allure of a Mary Magdalene, thereby reconciling the two Christian archetypes of womanhood, virgin and whore. The bright colors of the Virgin’s clothing in the painting imbue a festive, energizing atmosphere to what might otherwise have been a subdued lactation experience. Not surprisingly, the color that predominates is blue, Mary’s color. While this may seem anathema to a Republican candidate, it should be remembered that in an effort to reach out with non-partisan brotherly love the GOP has adopted blue for its Country Music First banners. Besides, in an election where there are so many crypto socialists and pinkos lurking about in capitalist disguise, red is best left only for coloring in states on maps and painting lips on pit bulls. Note the glutted infant GOP, whose expression and stance suggests that, while he has had his share of milk, he is not quite ready to part with the breast. In the distance, across the Bering Straits, is Kremlin Palace.

The Virgin and Child, Giovanni Antonio Boltraffio, about 1500-1525

Virgin and Child, by makismakis (assisted by Giovanni Antonio Boltraffio)According to the National Gallery audio tour for this painting: “The healthy chubby Christ Child, wearing only a large band around his waist, turns towards us with large, sad eyes. He lies across her lap in a pose that anticipates the Pietà, when he will rest in her arms after the crucifixion. And here, the joy of the mother cradling her child is permeated with the haunting sorrow of one who will lose her son.” Weep not, Mater Dolorosa: the rabble may be lashing your son towards Mount Cavalry, but His sacrifice shall not be in vain. The resurrection of the crucified Republican Party is nigh.



Altarpiece: The Madonna and Child with Saints John the Baptist and Jerome, Parmigianino, 1526-7

Altarpiece: Madonna and Child with Saints John the Baptist and Jerome, by makismakis (assisted by Parmigianino)Art critics once believed this to be a depiction of John the Maverick introducing Mother Palin as his vice presidential candidate at the 2008 Republican Convention. But the consensus is now that it is John the Mac-Is-Back, freshly emerged from his years of post-election soul-searching in the wilderness, proclaiming Queen Palin at her 2012 Republican Convention Assumption.

-Constantine Markides

Image Credits: makismakis. Makismakis is available for freelance work. Anyone interested should email him at:

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