Visualizing maternity in Pablo Gargallo’s “Maternidad excavada”

Maternidad Excavada (Excavated Maternity), terracotta
Copyright 1922, Pablo Gargallo

Pablo Gargallo (1881-1934) was a Spanish sculptor and important figure in avant-garde art of the early twentieth century. He spent significant time developing his style and work in Barcelona and Paris. Interested in the theme of maternity, he created several sculptures and reliefs capturing images of mother and child.

In his terracotta work Maternidad Excavada (Excavated Maternity), for which Gargallo also created casts in bronze, the artist depicts a melding of mother and child into one body. The woman’s breasts appear separated, one located at her chest while the other emerges from what appears to be the child’s torso. The child nestles its head with is mother’s, blending together with her at her shoulder.

The figure is not just a representation of a mother and child. It exudes the feeling or sensation of maternity, especially reminding one of when children are very young infants, nursing or sleeping with their skin touching their mothers’ skin. It is an image of maternal bonding and interconnectedness between mother and child.