Madonna of the Adoring Angels was the second of Daisy Bornes artworks
exhibited at the Royal Academy, where she debuted in 1932. The 1939
piece was her first in Palomino marble and first religious subject (a theme
in which she would specialise). Together with Joyce Bidder, with whom
she shared a studio for fifty years, Bornes sculpture interlaced Neo-
Classical and Modern elements.
The surface teems with life, simultaneously languid and tense. Soft
curves of chins and wings, and the radiating thin relief of the Madonnas
halo, contrast with the precision of hair, eyes and quills. The infant
Christs chubby body, his hands suggestive of tender play, are bordered
by the stylised, slender fingers of his mother, the maternal hand an echo
of the angels wings. Borne expresses adoration in the steady gaze of the
angel on the upper right of the relief, its lips turned slightly upward in a
subtle gesture of love for the Son of God.
Bornes creative approach to the theme of the Madonna and Child
combines the streamlined rush of jazz-age winged putti with the solemn
stillness of the Virgins monumental presence, even as her head covering
appears to merge with a stiff angel wing and flowing angelic hair. She
had lived in America and her work bears relationship with transatlantic
Christian Moderne sculptors such as Lee Lawrie. Bornes composition,
both contained within and exceeding its frame, offers new vitality to a
classic subject and medium.
Commentary by Ayla Lepine, Assistant Curate at Hampstead Parish Church and an independent art and architectural historian.