The photographs of civilian casualties and of the children who have suffered in the Afghan war are difficult to view. One image of an Afghan woman grieving over the body of her dead son immediately stopped me. Dressed in a purple-blue robe and a floral pink gown, a mother bends forward with arms outstretched, crying in anguish. I saw in her expression and in her posture a contemporary “Lamentation,” the traditional scene describing Mary’s lament over the death of her son Jesus, a subject frequently found in Renaissance paintings. Here is true grief, open and exposed, confronting cruel death. This is Mary in a blue mantle, her arms thrusting outwards, her body leaning, pausing gently on her knees, her face distorted in disbelief, shock and anger.
Brenda Van Halsema Friedman is an art historian, artist and art educator.