Our Lady of Milk: 20 Images of Mother Mary Nursing

Known by many names – Maria de la Leche, Maria Lactans, Nursing Madonna – the art arguably challenges certain modern Western sensibilities.

Credit: La Virgen de la Leche y Buen Parto, Facebook Group, edited.

Listers, our Blessed Mother nursing the infant Christ has a long, rich, and multifaceted history within Sacred Art. Known by many names – Maria de la Leche, Maria Lactans, Nursing Madonna – the art arguably challenges certain modern Western sensibilities.1 More information and images may be found at the La Virgen de la Leche y Buen Parto Facebook Page and the Fisheaters Maria Lactans Gallery.

 

Maria de le Leche & Maria Lactans

 

"LA VIRGEN DE LA LECHE at the Letania de Maria: Marian Devotees of Rizal Exhibit  at SM City Taytay September 22-28 2013. Photo courtesy of Rodney Torres. Image under the care of Randy Fernandez." - La Virgen de la Leche y Buen Parto, Facebook Group.
“LA VIRGEN DE LA LECHE at the Letania de Maria: Marian Devotees of Rizal Exhibit at SM City Taytay September 22-28 2013. Photo courtesy of Rodney Torres. Image under the care of Randy Fernandez.” – La Virgen de la Leche y Buen Parto, Facebook Group.

 

Parish of St. Sebastian, Lumban, Laguna, Philippines — at San Sebastian Parish Church Lumban Laguna. h/t La Virgen de la Leche y Buen Parto.
Parish of St. Sebastian, Lumban, Laguna, Philippines — at San Sebastian Parish Church Lumban Laguna. h/t La Virgen de la Leche y Buen Parto.

 

h/t La Virgen de la Leche y Buen Parto, Facebook Group.
h/t La Virgen de la Leche y Buen Parto, Facebook Group.

 

"AT THE HOSPITAL LOBBY San Juan de Dios Hospital Pasay city, Metro Manila  August 17, 2012" - La Virgen de la Leche y Buen Parto, Facebook Group
“AT THE HOSPITAL LOBBY
San Juan de Dios Hospital
Pasay city, Metro Manila
August 17, 2012″ – La Virgen de la Leche y Buen Parto, Facebook Group

 

"AT THE HOSPITAL LOBBY San Juan de Dios Hospital Pasay city, Metro Manila  August 17, 2012" - La Virgen de la Leche y Buen Parto, Facebook Group
“AT THE HOSPITAL LOBBY
San Juan de Dios Hospital
Pasay city, Metro Manila
August 17, 2012″ – La Virgen de la Leche y Buen Parto, Facebook Group

 

"6th Veritas Grand Marian Exhibit SM Mall of Asia, Pasay city November 7-29, 2011" - La Virgen de la Leche y Buen Parto, Facebook Group.
“6th Veritas Grand Marian Exhibit SM Mall of Asia, Pasay city November 7-29, 2011” – La Virgen de la Leche y Buen Parto, Facebook Group.

 

Artist: Circle of Gil de Siloe   Title: Virgin of the Milk (Virgen de la leche)   Date:  c. 1500   Medium: Polychromed wood  h/t The Minneapolis Institute of Arts
Artist: Circle of Gil de Siloe
Title: Virgin of the Milk (Virgen de la leche)
Date: c. 1500
Medium: Polychromed wood
h/t The Minneapolis Institute of Arts

 

Friesach, Austria, c. 1230.
Friesach, Austria, c. 1230.

 

"Virgin and Child Enthroned with Saints Leonard and Peter," c. 1270.
“Virgin and Child Enthroned with Saints Leonard and Peter,” c. 1270.

 

Maria Lactans, France late 14th century.
Maria Lactans, France late 14th century.

 

Taddeo di Bartolo, c. 1395.
Taddeo di Bartolo, c. 1395.

 

Brussel Hours, see http://www.faksimile.de/international/editions/productdetail.php?we_objectID=358.
Brussel Hours, see http://www.faksimile.de/international/editions/productdetail.php?we_objectID=358.

 

"The Virgin and Child before a Firescreen," about 1440, Follower of Robert Campin. See http://www.nationalgallery.org.uk/paintings/follower-of-robert-campin-the-virgin-and-child-before-a-firescreen.
“The Virgin and Child before a Firescreen,” about 1440, Follower of Robert Campin. See http://www.nationalgallery.org.uk/paintings/follower-of-robert-campin-the-virgin-and-child-before-a-firescreen.

 

Mary and Child - detail by Gerard David, 1490
Mary and Child – detail by Gerard David, 1490

 

Maria Lactans, Melchior Binder,  Bernhard-Maria-Altar (Lactatio-Altar), 1608.
Maria Lactans, Melchior Binder, Bernhard-Maria-Altar (Lactatio-Altar), 1608. via Wiki-Commons, Andreas Praefcke

 

Holy Family. 1714. oil on panel. 36 × 29 cm. Amsterdam, Museum Amstelkring.
Holy Family. 1714. oil on panel. 36 × 29 cm. Amsterdam, Museum Amstelkring.

 

Amesbury Psalter, 13th c., h/t Fisheaters.com
Amesbury Psalter, 13th c., h/t Fisheaters.com

 

Nuestra Señora de Leche y Buen Parto (Our Lady of Milk and Good Birth). This statue, ca. A.D. 1600-1620, is kept in the shrine devoted to Nuestra Señora de Leche y Buen Parto in St. Augustine, Florida -- the first Marian shrine in the United States. h/t Fisheaters.com
Nuestra Señora de Leche y Buen Parto (Our Lady of Milk and Good Birth). This statue, ca. A.D. 1600-1620, is kept in the shrine devoted to Nuestra Señora de Leche y Buen Parto in St. Augustine, Florida — the first Marian shrine in the United States. h/t Fisheaters.com

 

The Holy Family, the Workshop of Rembrandt, 1608. h/t Fisheaters.com
The Holy Family, the Workshop of Rembrandt, 1608. h/t Fisheaters.com

 

"The Miraculous Lactation of St. Bernard." This painting depicts the spiritual nourishing of St. Bernard by the milk of Our Lady, based on this legendary mystical experience: Bernard prayed before a statue of the Madonna, asking her, "Show yourself a mother" ("Monstra te esse Matrem"). The statue came to life and and squirted milk from the breast onto the Saint's lips. Artist: Alonso Cano, A.D. 1650 h/t Fisheasters.com
“The Miraculous Lactation of St. Bernard.” This painting depicts the spiritual nourishing of St. Bernard by the milk of Our Lady, based on this legendary mystical experience: Bernard prayed before a statue of the Madonna, asking her, “Show yourself a mother” (“Monstra te esse Matrem”). The statue came to life and and squirted milk from the breast onto the Saint’s lips. Artist: Alonso Cano, A.D. 1650 h/t Fisheasters.com 

  1. Sexualization & Puritanism: The Maria Lactans art arguably causes controversy due to two major themes in the Western world. The first is the modern notion or obsession of sexuality, which views the body as a means to the end of gratification. The second is puritanism, which categorically eschews nudity. Both pivot on the same error – the inability to view the human body outside the scope of sexual gratification. A woman’s breast is a prime example. The modern notion of the breast as a source of sexual gratification alone has reached a point that our culture esteems the perfect breast to be the fake breast. In contradistinction, the use of Mary’s breast in Maria Lactans stands as a sign of life, nourishment, and maternity. Particularly with Mother Mary, her life-giving milk nourished our Savior, who in turn would give his life-giving blood over for all humanity. []
  • Amanda

    This is beautiful! Thank you for putting together this collection. As a mother who is currently breastfeeding, it is great comfort to envision our Lady providing the same nourishment for our Lord that I do to our baby girl. Don’t often think of our Lady in this way. Also, a great thing to pray to her during nursing troubles.

  • lea

    Wow! Some are actually from the Philippines! Please pray the victims of the natural disasters (7.2 eathquake and category 5 super typhoon)! Salamat!

  • Terence M. Stanton

    A.M.D.G.

    “Scriptural Mothering” by Mrs. Sheila Kippley:
    http://nfpandmore.org/bfscriptural.shtml

  • All very interesting and well done, ecept perhpas for the last, “The Miraculous Lactation of St. Bernard.” That seems cheesey to me. Sometimes a metaphor should remain a metaphor.

  • george

    This is all wrong, I am Christian orthodox, and these images has nothing to do with St. Mary, Who even thing to make pictures like these were driven by DIVIL spirit, St. Mary is HOLY and all these images are drivin by some lost priests or bishops, they should go and repent and ask our Lord Jesus Christ forgiveness also as St. Mary to forgive them about their poisoned minds and repent.

    • Fr. D

      Surely the Orthodox believe that the Blessed Theotokos nursed Our Lord when He was an infant, there is nothing unholy about that.

    • Patrick

      George, the icon of Mary nursing (“Galaktotrophousa” – Milk-Giver) has a long history in Orthodox iconography. For a very nice explanation of the importance of the icon see here:
      http://iconreader.wordpress.com/2011/07/03/milk-giver-icon-not-scandalized-by-the-incarnation/

      It is actually a beautiful and simple statement against the non-Orthodox heresy that Jesus is wholly divine dating from at least 1,500 years ago within the Church. The error in reading the icon comes from the modern(and sinful)sexualization of the breast and objectification of women. In this context it is an expression of the act of nourishment of Our Lord by Our Mother.

    • Christina

      So what I understand from what you have put here, you are saying that breast feeding is unholy and that it should not be represented in a way that describes the beauty and nature of it all? I’m not a religious person, but I do not believe that a woman’s breast is for sexual purposes only. Much like most of nature, dogs, cats, deer, and so on, those animals babies feed from the mother’s nipples. Why is it okay to not think of animals feeding as sexual, but it’s okay to think of human beings as a sexual orientation when it comes to the breast? I’m not old, but I do have one kid and I did breast feed her. There is nothing sexual about it, and it’s purely just a spiritual bondage and just purely beautiful. Maybe you shouldn’t be so ignorant to the idea of it and actually learn about it. Maybe your wife breast fed, you can’t tell me that you found it sexually appealing while she did this.

    • c mommy

      Are you actually saying that as a christian you believe these photos of paintings and statues are evil? How exactly do you think Mary fed Jesus?? There was no formula back then. These are beautiful and wonderful and as a christian I think you should stop sexualizing breasts and see them for what God intended them to be, tools to feed and nourish babies. Why do you think a lot of painting and statues from that era were topless? Its because back then people saw breasts for what they are not as tools for pleasure. Its people like you that discourage women from doing what is best for their children and nursing them. You should be ashamed and you should really educate yourself a little more before damning people for thinking the mother Mary did what was best for her baby.

  • Caleb

    That last one… Nope. Just no. All of my no. The others are completely reasonable, but that last one is just nasty.

  • joycelen

    Beautiful! But I agree with Manny. We may be free to not believe that. But we know for sure that she nursed our Lord at her breast.

  • Amy

    Nice! I haven’t seen some of these. I have my own collection…136 images on a Pinterest board: http://www.pinterest.com/azaelia/maria-lactans/ if anyone’s interested in seeing more images of this kind.

  • Louise Hunt

    I was a Le Leche League group leader during the 1960’s when mothers found difficulty in breastfeeding their infants because of the doctors’ insistence on use of the baby bottle and formula being more accurate and scientific! La Leche was taken from the OUR LADY OF PLENTIFUL MILK.

  • Fr. D

    To the people opposed to the last image (actually, the one from the Bernhard-Maria-Altar is of the same subject), it is based on an apparition which St. Bernard received of Our Lady. You can read a synopsis of it here: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Lactation_of_Saint_Bernard

  • If you like these images, you should try Bridegroom Press.
    Bridegroom Press carries two different Virgin Lactans calendars:

    https://gracesreceived.com/store/bridegroompress/calendars/2014-virgin-lactans-11×17

    and

    https://gracesreceived.com/store/bridegroompress/calendars/2014-virgin-lactans-13.5-x-19

    The calendars can also be found here:
    http://www.lulu.com/spotlight/bridegroompress

  • Nancee Donovan

    I,personally think this is a beautiful representation of Our Lady, the Blessed Mother. If only we had not gotten so far away from the natural way of breastfeeding and made the breast into a sex object, we would have healthier babies and a healthier attitude for our culture. Breast cancer would not be as prevalent, nor would sexual deviations. To think this is evil, is to buy into the lies of the devil! (LLL Leader for 10 years)

  • onlein

    Telling comment about our current culture seeing the perfect breast as a fake breast. Talk about objectification, particularly when so many view pictures of women with fake breasts. How far removed from reality, and humanity, this is.

  • Noelani

    This is a beautiful collection of photographs! I got to live in Germany for three years, where there are likenesses of women breastfeeding all over the place! Even in very large paintings of battles, with dozens of people killing and being killed, have a mother breastfeeding her child. It’s like the artists are saying that the world is filled with turmoil, hate and misery, but there is still a seed of beauty there; still hope for humanity, as long as there are mothers peacefully nursing their babies!

  • Donna

    Every time I BF in church without a cover, my husband gets all uncomfortable. A few months ago, they introduced a new missilette, and guess what? On the cover was a picture of a woman breastfeeding while holding hands with other people around her!! I took that as a sign that I should stop caring what other people think and just do what me and my baby need. They need to learn some lessons about the reason why women have breasts. And it’s not for their entertainment.

  • MArily

    George ,saying you are a Christian Orthodox,you must have heard of Panagia Galaktotrofousa (Παναγια Γαλακτοτροφουσα) who is a very well known icon of Christian Orthodoxs. I am an orthodox too.nursed all my 3 Sons and i also read in the Bible..”Μακαρια η βαστασασα σε και οι μαστοι ους εθηλασας” (blessed be the one that held you and the breasts which nursed you ” (Luke chapter 11)-forgive me for the English transation i am Greek and don’t know the bible in Engish….don’t give a wrong impression about Orthodox christians.Please.

  • Jessica

    Thank you for these photos! As a nursing mother trying to promote and normalize breastfeeding, I find artwork of Mother Mary nursing Jesus at her breast to be beautiful! Nursing is not gross or weird…The Lord gave women lactating breasts for a reason!

  • JEnn

    Everyone did! There was no formula…women even nursed eachothers children…not just babies but children.

  • Anne

    Thank you for these beautiful images! For everyone who has a problem with the last one, you obviously have never been harassed for breastfeeding your child. Not going to lie, I have wanted to squirt milk at people to shut them up before LOL

  • edith

    It was usually breastfeeding that makes the baby survive durinmg those olden days . The LORD became so human nursed by the Lady . MAN GOD as HE is ,as infant HE submitted Himself to the Lady’s care and nursing .WHAT A BEAUTIFUL RELATIONSHIP between the Mother and the GOD Child !!!

  • EDITH

    BEAUTIFUL, REALISTIC PICTURES ! THE VIRGIN MARY IS A MOTHER IN THE REAL SENSE! SO MYSTICAL !

  • Helen

    Yeesh … I think most of you need to study art and history a bit!

  • I never could understand the Southern white women who had black women nurse their children for them. They sure missed out on the love that comes with holdinf your infant and suckling if you are able. Holding a bottle is the next best thing and provides that wonderful loving feeling as well. Also I can’t understand people back in the days that wouldn’t allow blacks to use their facilities, sing in a musical or play but wouldn’t be able to stay overnight in their hotel rooms or eat in their dining rooms- – – – – but would allow their infants to put thier lips to a black woman breast for nouisement. What was wrong with their thinking. All women since Eve nursed their children if they were physically able to. what a joke to say Mary was too holy to nurse her holy baby, or that nursing is ugly and should not be shown. sigh.

  • praneee

    very nice

  • Donna Marie DeMaio

    These are the most beautiful pictures of Our Lady that I have ever seen and I am a life long Catholic. Thank you for this beautiful collection. Merry Christmas! God Bless.

  • faraja

    stupid images.

  • c’emeka ekere

    Lovely Pictures!

  • THIS IS ALL LIES, I DON’T BELIEVE IT

  • Steve

    Distasteful and disrespectful in every way.

  • Mother Mary is most respectable holy personality for us I agree that st mary fed her son our Lord Jesus Christ but it is not fair that we will nacked aur mother.It is shame for us we should respect our Mother mary and donot break her holyness.thanks

  • J. Liana Dugan

    How beautiful! I have never seen icons like these before but wow. Im not catholic but i love the Blessed Mother. Some say this is gross or stupid clearly doesn’t understand anything about the Blessed Mother’s relationship with Jesus or for that fact modren women’s relationship with there children on the beauty of bonding through breastfeeding.

  • Clement Fernandes

    Breast feeding is the nectar of life for a new born upto 6 months which all know very well but no mother in her right senses will show her breasts to everyone at large while feeding her baby especially in India. Maybe within the four walls of her home she may openly feed her baby. It is ridiculous to paint such pictures, especially when the christian world respects and adores Mother Mary.

  • RIchard

    This is crazy. how can Catholic Church approve such immodest images and statues of Our Lady. Yes it is true that Breastfeeding is normal and also a sublime act of a mother towards her child but to openly breastfeed is immodest. I remember one of the sermon of St John Mary Vianney where he condemns mothers who does breastfeeding in public.
    I am a devout Traditional Catholic and Love our Lord and Our Lady very much. I felt so sad and confused after i saw these pictures.
    We always condemn pagans for their naked gods and goddesses and here we are portraying Our Lady half naked. really sad and disappointed.

    • Matt Kososki

      Then you best not step into the Sistine Chapel or any of the Vatican’s museums. Lots of nekkid people.

    • tradcatholic

      Good for you Richard, I felt the same way. Immodesty is immodesty. I do not care what naked sculptures are in the Sistine Chaple, just because they are there doesn’t make it right, and besides, most were not scuptured for the intent of arousing the sexual senses and at a time when many had less access to clothes, like David, Solomon, etc. Although these pictures here of Mary may not suggest sexual thoughts, it is offensive to the Image of Mary, Whom God created as Pure and Holy. There is a big difference, Matt Kososki.

      • Matt Kososki

        I understand that there is a difference. Context is what makes something modest or immodest, not the percentage of skin you leave covered up. My comments were directed towards Richard, who felt that the breastfeeding pictures were immodest because one or both breasts were exposed, leaving her “half-naked”.

    • francesca

      I grew up in a region of Italy where depictions of the Madonna breastfeeding were frequently present in ancient frescos and sculptures. Seeing these images as immoral or immodest is to look at them with the eyes of the world, rather than the eyes of faith. Their purpose is to illustrate the humanity of Jesus – he really was incarnate, really was a little child and did what little children do. They display the tenderness, love and interdependence of the holy mother and child, thereby providing a model for the love and tenderness which should exist between us as Christians and continues in the relationship of Christ to his church. In iconography, Mary often represents the church – here in her role as a gentle mother who nourishes her child. Given all this, I find it hard to see these ancient and sacred images, born of faith and devotion, and representing a a beautiful historical episode in the life of Christ and his mother, as scandalous or immodest. They are part of the rich Catholic and Orthodox tradition of sacred art which can, when contemplated with faith, increase our appreciation for the sacred mysteries.

  • I am glad that His Holiness, Pope Francis, affirmed the right and duty of a mother to feed her child, even while in church.

  • Nocturnal

    Hey CHINENYE – The camera *never* lies unlike people. It’s all true – these sculptures and paintings are REAL! Supposedly to recreate an actual religious event. If you don’t like them and do not believe you could always take hot embers and stop yourself from ever seeing them again. Or simply accept them for what they might or might now be.

  • tradcatholic

    I do not care who drew, painted or scuptured these pictures, they are immodest. Our Lady would have never exposed herself, but would have been discreet and modest in every sense of the word. She is our role model in purity, modesty and chastity for today, breastfed mothers should take every precaution to nurse discreetly and as modestly as they can. Just because it’s natural doesn’t mean we forget all the rules about decency. Just as we use a rest room to eliminate waste, bedrooms for dressing and intimate relations, etc. we have become very lax when it comes to Modesty. I also, will go as far as to say some of these images are down right blashemous to Our Mother.,
    Let us make reparation for those who thought it necessary to expose Our Blessed Mother, whom God made sinleess! Amen.
    God Bless

  • Ananda

    Actually, this not naked picture. Holy Mary is depicting her maternal affection. Her sacred breast is feeding the whole mankind. O Holy Virgin Mary, Mother. I honor you I love you more than ever. Your maternal love is overflowing the world.

  • Ananda

    This is no naked picture. Holy Virgin Mary is feeding the whole world with her sacred breasts.The whole world is overflowing with her maternal love. O Virgin Mary, I honor you ; I love you more than ever.