Alexander Tovborg’s madonna of embrace is equal parts personal and universal. The painting is a highly stylized portrait of the artist’s wife, Cæcilie, and their daughter, Dea. In addition, the artwork contains references to early art history in the form of its altarpiece dimensions, its colour technique and, not least, its iconic Madonna theme.

With support from the New Carlsberg Foundation, Moderna Museet in Stockholm has now added the three-metre-tall Tovborg piece to its collection.

Madonna reinterpreted

In 2022, Galleri Nicolai Wallner presented Alexander Tovborg’s latest solo exhibition, madonna. In these artworks, Tovborg explored his interest in the visual expression that has given rise to the religious Madonna figure, an archetypal symbol that has dominated much of Western art history and culture.

This engagement with religious iconography is not new to the artist, whose practice has long involved the examination of symbols across religions, historical contexts and mythologies and their significance for our current self-concept and world view.

Iconic embrace

In madonna of embrace, the figures are constructed of simple, circular shapes. They exist both separately – as independent, abstract shapes – and as part of the motherly embrace of the child that we recognize from the classic Madonna figure.

The child leans against the mother, who stands tall, appearing to stretch her arms out over the child, like a plant. Where their feet meet, mother and child fuse into a single figure. Both are portrayed in pastels and earth colours.

The background is dazzlingly bright in a manner that brings to mind stained-glass windows in traditional church architecture. In combination with delicate colours that almost resemble watercolours, the background creates a translucent effect that lends the figures a vibrant character.

Moderna Museet in Stockholm

Moderna Museet in Stockholm opened in 1958 and is Sweden’s national museum of modern art. The museum’s collection includes art by Pablo Picasso, Salvador Dalí, Marcel Duchamp and Niki de Saint Phalle, among others. Works by contemporary artists are continually added.

About Alexander Tovborg

Alexander Tovborg (b. 1983) trained at the Royal Danish Academy of Fine Arts in Copenhagen and the State Academy of Fine Arts Karlsruhe in Germany. Tovborg is represented by Galleri Nicolai Wallner and lives and works in Copenhagen.

In Denmark, the artist has exhibited at Gammel Strand, Rudolph Tegner Museum, ARoS and KØS. Tovborg is represented in museum collections the world over, including Kunsthalle Bremen in Germany, Hammer Museum in Los Angeles, California, and the Museum of Religious Art in Lemvig, Denmark.