Mamma Roma


Oil on canvas

30 x 24 x 2.5 cm

A face deformed by a cry covers the entire canvas, without offering a way out of this deeply distressing spectacle. The face is that of actress Anna Magnani, crying with pain after losing her son in Pier Paolo Pasolini’s 1962 film Mamma Roma. Marlene Dumas freezes this tragic, animal-like expression in a moving oil on canvas work, where white and shades of grey echo the black and white of the Italian film.

The figure of the mother, more specifically of the Pietà, is essential in Dumas’ work, who began depicting mothers crying from the pain of losing a child in 1994, with her Jesus Suffering series. While the relationship of the bodies, the mother’s living body and the child’s dead body, has a key role in her work, Dumas moves away from it in Mamma Roma to focus on the spontaneous, primitive expression of maternal grief.

Marlene Dumas’ painting Mamma Roma belongs to the Pinault Collection. The painting was first shown at the “Prima Materia” (“Raw Material”) exhibition at the Punta della Dogana.