Jul 27 2010
The blue-edged sari of Mother Teresa and the hand raised in `abhay mudra` are well-known motifs in Husain`s oeuvre, representing peace and the value of altruism. A baby clinging to the nun`s clothes underscores the maternal benevolence that the image of Mother Teresa has come to represent.
However, the blackened face of Mother Teresa, a familiar portrayal of the nun in Husain`s work, deserves closer consideration. The nun is identified not by the features of her face, but by her blue-edged sari. Perhaps, in obliterating her features the painting enacts a subtle dismantling of her `foreign identity`. She is also absorbed into a uniquely Indian context. “The sari – restored to its appropriate Indian-ness – can add significance to Mother Teresa … it is the sari, the symbol of Indian motherhood, that allows the European nun to wear her title with justification… it is entirely right that the orphaned dark child should seek refuge in the arms of this sari-clad, dark skinned mother of the poor and the helpless.” (Shyamal Bagachi, “Augmented Nationalism: The Nomadic Eye of Painter M.F. Husain”, asianart.com)
In case you are curious, this painting sold for about $80,000 in 2005. It was estimated to sell for $40k, but went for much higher. The pricing of Indian art is a bit soft now, but it will recover soon.
Maqbool Fida Husain
Acrylic on canvas
36 x 24 in | 91.4 x 61.0 cm
Signed in English (upper left)