Alison Lapper Pregnant by Marc Quinn

Marc Quinn

Alison Lapper Pregnant, 2005, Marble, 3.55 x 1.81 x 2.60 m, © Marc Quinn; Photo: Nic Hamilton / Alamy Stock Photo

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‘Behold, from henceforth’

Commentary by
Read by Lydia Ayoade

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.

 

References

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]

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