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Madonna, Oil by Edvard Munch (1863-1944, Norway)
Madonna is the usual title given to a composition by the Norwegian expressionist painter Edvard Munch. Munch painted several versions of the composition, showing a bare-breasted half-length female figure, between 1892 and 1895, using oils on canvas. He also produced versions in print form.
The version owned by the Munch Museum of Oslo was stolen in 2004 but recovered two years later. Two other versions are owned by theNational Gallery of Norway and the Kunsthalle Hamburg. Another one is owned by businessman Nelson Blitz, and one was bought in 1999 by Steven A. Cohen.
The lithographic print of the composition is distinguished by a decorative border depicting wriggling sperm, with a fetus-like figure in its bottom left corner. The 1893 version of the painting had a frame with similar decoration, but it was later removed and lost. The print also exists in a number of different versions.
Although it is a highly unusual representation, this painting might be of Mary, the mother of Jesus. Whether the painting is specifically intended as a representation of Mary is disputed. Munch used more than one title, including both "Loving Woman" and "Madonna". Munch is not famous for religious artwork and was not known as a Christian. The affinity to Mary might as well be intended nevertheless, as an emphasis on the beauty and perfection of his friend Dagny Juel-Przybyszewska, the model for the work, and an expression of his worship and high esteem in which he held her.
On Sunday, 22 August 2004, the Munch Museum's versions of Madonna and The Scream were stolen by masked men wielding firearms. The thieves forced the museum guards to lie down on the floor while they snapped the cable securing the paintings to the wall and escaped in a black Audi A6 station wagon, which police later found abandoned.
Both paintings were recovered by the Oslo Police on 31 August 2006. The following day Ingebjørg Ydstie, director of the Munch Museum, said the condition of the paintings was much better than expected and that the damage, including a 2.5 cm hole in the Madonna, could be repaired.