The way this Pietà is staged, in front of a monumental stairway, gives the scene an ageless quality. Since ancient times the architecture of a staircase is more than only a bridge between a lower and an upper space. Climbing the stairs is often a spiritual or existential symbol, for reaching more knowledge or elevation by getting closer to the supernatural world. An ascent or descent also means a journey, some kind of progress.
But this flight of stairs stands for hierarchy, political violence, war and systematic injustice. How powers assault and sacrifice humans for their purposes. No progress here, the system continues to stay largely unattainable and unchangeable.
In front of the stone steps, on a stack of roadblocks, a mother holds her badly injured child. This innocent little boy, hovering between life and death, is a victim of all the raging wars for power, land, resources. He has just been rescued from the ruins of a bombardment, while fires still burn in the background. He misses a shoe and he is wounded. Somebody wrapped him in plastic. That looks terribly painful. The mother has reached the point of desperation where she cannot move, only weep silently without tears. She does not cradle her child, perhaps to not hurt him any further. Rather, she presents him to the world as a complaint against that world wreaking havoc.
She is all the mothers who mourn or suffer for a child. She is the modern-day epitome of Michelangelo’s Pietà. Her rich robes are inconsistent with her surroundings, but exactly that is what lifts her from the war zone and makes her the timeless mother. The elaborately embroidered silk shawl around her face is of golden green, the color of rebirth, life, nurture and growth. The contradictions are clear. This is an image of love, of loss, powerlessness and pain, but also of reaching out for consolation and help. Desperate for hope. She asks the viewer to share her distress, to relate to the son. The reference to the Pietà also carries the possibility of a resurrection as it is related to the story of Jesus Christ. Yet, death is far too often the reality of wars. You do hope he will survive.
One finger of her left hand holds his little thumb in a hopeless gesture of support. Her empty palm is open in a forlorn complaint to the heavens. Her whole posture presents the question: why?
Hansa Versteeg Pietà della Nostra Terra, 2019, oil on canvas 125 x 125 cm
This art contemplation by Anikó is published in the book ‘Compassionism’. The book, as well as high quality reproductions and some originals are available via the website of the artist: www.hansaversteeg.com.