There is nothing as tender as the love of a mother for her child. It is a natural instinct to love, nurture and protect her offspring. In the field of art, this is a popular theme throughout the history of art.
Beginning with the story of Jesus and His mother Mary, many of the Renaissance artists--including Leonardo da Vinci and Raphael--portrayed the subject of a mother and her child with great sensitivity.
Raphael painted "Madonna and Child" also known as "Small Cowper Madonna" (1505) that can be seen at the National Gallery of Art, Washington D.C.
Interestingly, there is another similar painting by Raphael, "Madonna and Child with Book" (1502-03) that belongs to the Norton Simon Museum in Pasadena, CA. From November 5, 2010 to January 24, 2011, the "Small Cowper Madonna" will be on loan to the Norton Simon Museum to show alongside their own Madonna and child. This painting has been outside of the U.S. only once (to a museum in Urbino, Italy) since 1942 when it was donated to the National Gallery of Art.
The nineteenth century American artist who displayed her work with the Impressionists was Mary Cassatt. Although she never had children of her own, she painted the mother and child theme numerous times. Whether it was "The Child’s Bath" (1893), "Mother and Child" (1905) or "Sleepy Baby" (1910), one gets a sense of Mary Cassatt’s own natural mothering instinct