Red Mother with Child (Louvre Collection)


By Christian Lax translated by Montana Kane (NBM/Musée du Louvre Éditions)
ISBN: 978-1-68112-257-1(HB) eISBN: 978-1-68112-258-8

In 2005 one of the greatest museums in the world began an intriguing ongoing project with the upstart art form of comics; inviting some of the world’s most accomplished masters of graphic narrative to create new works in response to the centuries of acquired treasures residing within the grand repository of arts, history and culture.

The tales are produced in close collaboration with the forward-looking authorities of the Louvre, dedicated to pushing the envelope of what can be accomplished by master craftsman inspired by their creative antecedents and forebears. These are no thinly-concealed catalogues of exhibition contents gift-wrapped in cartoon terms to gull potential visitors off their couches and into a stuffy edifice of public culture, but vibrant and challenging comics events calculated to make you think again about what creativity and history mean…

Since then, many of our medium’s greatest exponents have crafted 11 astounding and compelling graphic novels and the twelfth may well be the most potent and rewarding thus far.

Courtesy of those fine folks at NBM, that latest beguiling bande dessinée is now available in English, highlighting Christian Lax’s inestimable artistic gifts and his dedication to and fascination with contemporary crises. Red Mother With Child shockingly combines reportage with drama and suspense with art appreciation to look beyond simplistic media hot button reports and governmental sideshow talking points to truly focus on one of the world’s most tragic human crises via the lens of immortal transcendent art and history…

Originally released in 2019 as Une Maternité rouge, this is a timely and powerful commentary on the value of art as well as a telling riposte to modern society’s callous ineptitude to the ongoing crisis of enforced global displacement. A beautifully robust oversized (234 x 305 mm) hardback graphic narrative – also available in digital formats – the tome follows the journey of one dedicated migrant as he strives to save a work of art from fanatics determined to destroy it in the name of misguided religion…

Multi award-winning author/artist Christian Lacroix AKA Christian Lax (Hector le castor, La marquise des Lumières, Azrayen) was born in Lyon on January 2nd 1949 and, after graduating from the École des beau-arts de Saint Étienne in 1975, began working in advertising whilst breaking into comics such as Metal Hurlant. After collaborating on a number of relatively straightforward adventure strips, in 1993 he began to carefully mine modern events for material, beginning with Romania-set political thriller La fille aux ibis. Since then has sought in all his works (which range from thrillers and historical journalism to sports strips such as Tour de France strip L’Aigle sans orteils) to show how social history impresses and shapes each generation…

Here, in muted lyrical hues, the tale begins in the Federation of Mali. It’s 1960 and the French are leaving the country days before it gains independence. With them they are taking every piece of native art and trinket of note…

One young boy determines that they won’t have everything and steals one statue: a small red figurine of a mother holding a baby…

In Spring 2015, officials and technicians of the Louvre discuss their jobs and the ethical ramifications of curating/safeguarding the cultural treasures of many lands and civilisations, even as, a scant distance away, a small band of refugees huddles under a café by the Seine. They all have stories of horrific past hardships and struggles to reach France and now endure daily kindness from some and cruel abuse from others. However, for one, his ultimate goal and mission is to breach the walls of the Louvre, itself…

Alou was a young honey hunter, at home with his simple world until he encountered Islamists throwing their weight around. After destroying the impious, heretical carving on Alou’s walking stick, the invaders blew up the ancient Baobab tree he was climbing. Secure in their power, the militants drove away unaware that their prank had unearthed a red figurine lost since Mali’s colonial days: a piece of art that grips the boy in a protective frenzy and makes him determined to save it from destruction at the hands of the anti-art fundamentalists…

With the aid of an old teacher/shaman with a secret interest, Alou sets out to place the Red Mother beyond their reach in the fabled Louvre. The boy must join the thousands abandoning their lives and homes and head for the relative paradise of Europe…

Lax has a unique talent for bringing history to vibrant life and a sublime ability to build rounded characters in a minimum of time and space. Packed with powerful detail, Alou’s journey throws a harsh spotlight on the plight of migrants and the causes of mass population displacement, but the artist narrator never loses sight of the fact that this is a tale of people. His contemporary epic shines with small acts of empathy and wickedness from a host of authentic characters peppering the voyage, turning a simple hero’s quest into a mighty pictorial paean to human endurance and testament to the force art exerts upon the soul.

Supplementing the narrative is a photo-packed essay detailing the history of the 14th century statue that inspired this tale and The Pavillon des Sessions’ that houses it. ‘

This is another astounding and ferociously strident comics experience no art lover or devotee of the visual narrative medium can afford to miss…
© Futuropolis – Musée du Louvre Éditions 2019. © NBM 2020 for the English translation.
Most NBM books are also available in digital formats. For more information and other great reads see http://www.nbmpub.com/