A baby sleeps so innocently. Resting quietly they seem at their most vulnerable and yet most full of possibilities. We look at them knowing what they do not – that they have so far to go, so far to grow.
We see that childish innocence in Bernardo Strozzi’s painting. A little child lies turned toward the light, covered against the dangers of the darkness behind her. There are bracelets on her small chubby arms, probably coral bracelets meant to protect her from unseen threats. Her cheeks are pink, her lips baby-small. She is wrapped in a richly colored red blanket to protect her from the cold of the night. It is a color as rich as her life may be.
Strozzi was a 17th century Italian artist who led an interesting life. He studied painting for a short while then, when he was seventeen, entered a Capuchin monastery. While he was a friar there he used his skills and talent as a painter to produce devotional works. Then his father died and he was allowed to leave the monastery to look after his mother and sister. Again he used his skills as a painter, this time to support them and himself.
After his mother died and his sister married he was expected to return to the monastery. But after twenty years working as an artist outside the monastery’s walls he refused to go back to that life. He was taken to court, even imprisoned briefly, in an effort to make him return.
Instead he fled from his home in Genoa to Venice, where he continued his work as a painter. There his talent and skill brought him considerable success and recognition. His was not an innocent’s life, but the life of a talented and determined man.
Still he saw the beauty of a sleeping child, and shared their “innocent sleep” with us.
“Innocent sleep” – Shakespeare, in Macbeth, described sleep this way:…the innocent sleep, Sleep that knits up the ravell’d sleave of care, The death of each day’s life, sore labour’s bath, Balm of hurt minds, great nature’s second course, Chief nourisher in life’s feast.