Where are all the pregnant women?

When studying history, one thing is clear: women were often pregnant. So why is it so rare to see pregnant women in paintings? 

From a blog on Vermeer:

"There seem to be no depictions of pregnant women in the Dutch Republic of the seventeenth century. Pregnancy was obviously considered as indecorous and not attractive and was thus kept out of public eye as much as possible."

Perhaps that was true throughout Europe. Here are a few I found: 

One painting, presumed to be of a pregnant woman, is Woman in Blue Reading a Letter by Vermeer.

 Another, sometimes suspected, The Mama Lisa: 

Yep, I think that's her secret. What do you think?


  • Katie Fawcett

    Never thought about this before, Sandra.  How interesting.

    • http://www.sandragulland.com Sandra Gulland

      It has come home to me in a really tangible way right now, Katie, because our daughter is 7-months pregnant, and we just had a house guest who is 6-months along. It’s impossible not to see that there’s a child hatching!

      When you consider any gathering historically, how many of the women were apt to be pregnant? Quite a few! For my real-life characters, I have to keep a chart showing how many months they are along in their pregnancies. Often, several are pregnant at the same time.

      My next post will be on exploring how women managed to dress considering their fairly constant change in body shape. And one thing that continues to mystify me is how women at Court could disguise a pregnancy even into the late stages!

  • http://everythingtosomeone.blogspot.com/ Christie

    I do like the idea that Mona Lisa is expecting.  c:

    • http://www.sandragulland.com Sandra Gulland

      Me too! Now, when I look at that portrait, it seems totally obvious.

  • daisy

    Having one’s portrati painted was expensive and probably a one time thing unless one was a queen. I imagine few women wanted to be immortalized at their hot, sick, miserable and puffy worst. I even had melasma when I was pregnat. Seeing raccon self on a wall was not what I wanted at all.

    • http://www.sandragulland.com Sandra Gulland

      This is a very convincing thesis! And sadly, I think it possible that these women who did sit for a portrait at such a time, likely did so in knowledge that they might not survive the birth of their child.

      But what about the group social scenes? Were there not were pregnant women present?