This is a family painting of a mom and a baby lying in bed. But the set-up is strange. Everything, including the bed and the walls are white, with only their heads emerging from the bed linen. In addition, the baby is lying apart from her mother although babies are generally depicted in the arms of their mothers or when they are being breastfed.
Joaquín Sorolla’s was the most famous Spanish painter until the emergence of Pablo Picasso in the early 20th century. Born in Valencia in 1863, Sorolla’s lost their parents to the cholera epidemic and was raised by his aunt and uncle. He received his initial art education at the age of nine, studied painting in Rome, and learned to paint in the Impressionist style in Paris. He got married at the age of 25 and settled in Madrid, where he became the father of three children. His family was his best model for painting. The woman and the baby in the painting are his wife, Clotilde, and his youngest daughter, Elena, who later became a painter.
Sorolla’s earned his fame with his beach paintings but his favorite subject was his family. Raised as an orphan, he knew the importance of family. So family always came first to him. It was also family paintings that realized his ambition for art. Although he aspired to innovative paintings that destroy all conventionality, he mostly painted beach and genre paintings, which guaranteed him fame and fortune. But this painting was different. He broke away from the conventional image of mother and baby. If he had his wife to hold their daughter in her hands or breastfeed her for a long time for the painting, it might have looked beautiful but would have been a hard work for the model. Their daughter in the painting appears to be actually sleeping. The mother and the baby were painted in their most convenient and natural condition.
People say babies are the cutest when they are sleeping. The mother looks happy watching her baby sleeping peacefully. Sorolla’s kept the background white and simple in order to focus on the faces of his wife and baby and gave warmth to the painting by adding the yellow shading of the bed clothes. It was not a strange set-up at all but a common everyday scene.