Max Ernst – The Virgin Spanking the Christ Child (1926)


A true innovator and provocateur, German artist Max Ernst was one of the leading figures of Surrealism and the Dada art movements, blending in mythology, Christian iconography and Freudian psychology in his dark, dreamlike artworks. The gruesome experience of fighting during World War I made him realize that the world was irrational, objective reality being nothing but a dream. Deeply disillusioned, he explored this new belief through his art, becoming fascinated with the process of painting directly from his subconscious.

In 1926, Ernst depicted an unusual, yet amusing instance of Madonna and her infant, where a naked boy Jesus, maybe 5 years old, is spanked for his unruly behavior, his buttocks red from the punishment. The full title of the painting is The Virgin Spanking the Christ Child before Three Witnesses: André Breton, Paul Éluard, and the Painter. I know, it’s quite a mouthful. At the time, the artwork raised…

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