Most Montessori baby rooms and nurseries are decorated simply but thoughtfully. Many modern-day “Montessorians” feature simple, beautiful prints of animals, plants, or abstract colors and shapes. Cultural items and handicrafts are also common.
What did Montessori herself prefer?
Pictured above is Raphael’s Madonna of the Chair, which is the painting that Maria Montessori had chosen as the “emblem” of the Casa dei Bambini and displayed above the blackboard in the school .
It is important for a few reasons:
- It is beautiful!
- It is a technical masterpiece.
- All faces are visible, their expressions easy to see.
- On the surface, the informal scene depicts a scene of safety, security, and love (sure to comfort any viewer, including infants.)
- For those familiar with the subjects, it represents an exaltation of children: the Mother (Mary) is holding her Son (Jesus), the child who is greater than she; just like our children are greater than us. Children represent the future, and are the salvation of mankind and the triumph of humanity.
- It pays homage to Montessori’s country of origin, Italy.
- It lays an unconscious foundation for religious education.
In her own words, Dr. Montessori wrote:
“A large colored picture of Raphael’s Madonna of the Chair was the enthroned on a wall. We have chosen this painting as the symbol and emblem of the Children’s Houses. As a matter of fact these houses represent not only an advance in society but also in humanity. They are closely connected with the elevation of motherhood, the advancement of women, and the protection of posterity. Raphael’s idealized Madonna of the virgin mother with her adorable child is not only sweet and beautiful, but next to this perfect symbol of motherhood stands the figure of John the Baptist as a beautiful young child at the beginning of that rigorous life which was to prepare the way for Christ. It is the work of the greatest Italian artist, and if one day the Children’s Houses become spread throughout the world, Raphael’s picture will be there to speak eloquently of the country of their origin”.Maria Montessori, Discovery of the Child (p. 47)
Artwork in the Environment
It was Montessori’s wish to have Raphael’s beautiful painting of Mother Mary and the Child Christ on display in all Montessori schools should they become established throughout the world, and you will indeed often see it or a variation thereof included somewhere in the environment.
Parents and educators can be encouraged to display this painting as well as similar art which elevates the mother-child connection and the lives and work of children.
Here are a few examples:
What art is on permanent display in your Montessori room?
Is there an image that you would consider “emblematic” among them?