Alison Lapper Pregnant is best known for its exhibition as a monumental 3.5-metre-high statue on the fourth plinth in London’s Trafalgar Square in 2005–07. Marc Quinn’s rendering of Lapper’s pregnant form was part of a series entitled 'The Complete Marbles'. In this series, Quinn sculpted people who have either lost limbs due to accident or who were born with a disability, using the bright white Carrara marble classically reserved for statues of heroes. The medium of white marble has long been associated with strength, purity, and durability.
Where ancient statues may be missing a limb or appendage due to the injuries of time, what these sculptures depict is whole and complete.
The sculpture is unapologetic in its depiction of both disability and pregnancy. Representing what Quinn has called ‘a different kind of heroism’, the beauty of the subject is conveyed in the smooth, luminous finish of the marble and its nobility through Lapper’s posture, with her head erect, face composed but angled slightly to one side, gazing beyond the viewer.
Lapper’s gaze can be interpreted as expressing a serenity that looks to the future with hope. An artist herself, Lapper’s own work challenges the prejudice and fear that surrounds congenital abnormalities and their causes in contemporary society. Her posture might be read as expressing not just hope for a successful pregnancy, but a defiant confidence in the reproductive process. Such an assurance is rooted in the knowledge of the beauty, strength, and power of lives that are often devalued, patronized, or pitied by others.
Mary’s expression of joy in the Magnificat can also be interpreted as an act of defiance, in a time when an unmarried mother would have no reason to celebrate. The term ‘servant’ or ‘handmaiden’ in verse 48 echoes her response to Gabriel in Luke 1:38. Her faith in God’s plan is not a passive acquiescence. It requires courage to look towards an uncertain future with hope.
Alison Lapper’s website, http://www.alilapper.com/about [accessed 10/4/2020]
Quinn, Mark. The Complete Marbles, 1999–2005, http://marcquinn.com/artworks/the-complete-marbles [accessed 10/4/2020]
46And Mary said,
“My soul magnifies the Lord,
47and my spirit rejoices in God my Savior,
48for he has regarded the low estate of his handmaiden.
For behold, henceforth all generations will call me blessed;
49for he who is mighty has done great things for me,
and holy is his name.
50And his mercy is on those who fear him
from generation to generation.
51He has shown strength with his arm,
he has scattered the proud in the imagination of their hearts,
52he has put down the mighty from their thrones,
and exalted those of low degree;
53he has filled the hungry with good things,
and the rich he has sent empty away.
54He has helped his servant Israel,
in remembrance of his mercy,
55as he spoke to our fathers,
to Abraham and to his posterity for ever.”
56And Mary remained with her about three months, and returned to her home.