The Madonna, and all she symbolises, was a prominent figure in the oeuvre of Konstantinos Parthenis throughout his career. This work, which has a particular significance, may be placed somewhere between the beginning of 1930 and early May 1935, and it carries the painter’s own touching dedication to his daughter for her birthday on 9 May on the back of the canvas: My dear Sophia,/ for your 21st birthday please accept and keep safe for ever/ this Madonna who with her immense / affection will also always keep you safe/ your father/ K. Parthenis. The back of the canvas displays further information about the work and its story. The labels on the frame, for example, attest that the painting left the house of the Parthenis family to be exhibited at the XXI Venice Biennale in 1938 (cat. no. 373).
The “Madonna and Child” also demonstrates the progression of Parthenis’ painting. From the beginning of the 1930s, he had already reversed the canvas, painting not on the side covered by white-toned primer but on the bare side of the linen fabric, thus conveying the sense of an immaterial, active ‘space’, inhabited by pencil lines, infinitesimal stripes, faint brushstrokes of varying lengths and delicate tones. This is how Parthenis’ impressive wealth of distinctively fine colours emerges. He played with ochre, thick red and blue, creating something of a musical composition that defines what is sky or celestial presence, whilst bringing to the forefront the tender relationship between mother and Holy Child, father and daughter, the capacity of painting to infuse the divine into the human.