Edvard Munch - The Sick Child

The Sick Child

The Sick Child 1458 1458 Sybille Sciamma
Edvard Munch - The Sick Child

Edvard Munch, The Sick Child, 1896, Konstmuseet, Gothenburg

One of 6 paintings and various lithographs and etchings on the same theme, this painting records a moment before the death of Edvard Munch’s older sister Sophie from tuberculosis at 15.

Edvard Munch, The Sick Child, 1896
Musée d’Orsay exhibition 2022, photo Sybille Sciamma

It’s hard to explain
how the girl’s face is glowing
through sickness
like all the light in the painting
emanates from her

When you stand in front of it
you feel touched
like you would be by the Holy Spirit
a clear warm feeling
that dissolves the sadness

I thought “She is a Saint”
and so it seems
as the woman at her side
bows her head
and prays

Is it that there’s holiness
in the acceptance of death?
when it is the one dying
who brings comfort
to the sorrow of those staying?

I want to keep in the warmth
of her frail and precious light
maybe I could kneel and bow
and touch her foot
like people do to sacred statues
in ancient churches

Bringing all their hopes
and seeking solace
from the hardships of being alive