With All This Iconography, Beyonce’s Pregnancy Photo Clearly Belongs In A Museum

02.01.17 11 Comments

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In what is perhaps the first good news of 2017, Beyonce Giselle Knowles-Carter announced she’s pregnant with twins. On the first day of Black History Month. Because if Beyonce is one thing, it’s image savvy. As an artist, an activist, and a businesswoman, she’s proven that over and over and over again. Beyonce knows how to make a statement and that held true for her pregnancy announcement that placed Queen Bey in the middle of a bed of flowers while cradling her stomach. On its face, the portrait is beautiful, but the longer I stared at it, the more certain I was that not only was Bey sharing her news with the world, but she was also doing it in a style not unlike the portraits of the Renaissance with their heavy symbolism.

Beyonce and her team don’t do things by half-measures, so it stands to reason everything in that portrait is there for a reason. Before I crack open “Beginner’s Guide to Iconography,” let’s start with the obvious: Beyonce is proudly displaying her naked pregnant belly in what can only be an elegant middle finger to the “Beyonce Birthers” who to this day are convinced she didn’t carry Blue Ivy herself. Wearing both red and blue helps negate speculation on the gender of the babies. But beyond that, there’s a lot to unpack here. Let’s break it down!

Beyonce kneels on a bed of ivy, which could very well be a stand-in for her daughter, Blue Ivy. In western art, ivy has also long been a symbol of marital fidelity which would be a nod to the Carters working through their well-publicized marriage issues to come out the other side stronger than ever.

The yellow color of the cloth Beyonce is kneeling on is the color of light, love, and benevolence.

Surrounding herself with flowers indicated fertility, with the roses in particular able to symbolize either the Virgin Mary’s commitment to God, the goddess Venus’ passion, or as a visualization of the transitory state of life and death. In this case, they most likely represent fertility and love. Interestingly, the overwhelming majority of the flowers are pink, the color of eternal innocence and/or the Immaculate Conception. Jay-Z, you have something to tell us?

Beyonce kneels in front of a circle, which has many meanings in art. The cycle of life, the circular halo behind the divine, and even the never-ending wheel of fortune upon which we all ride though life. Any of which could apply here, but let’s be honest: It’s Bey’s halo.

Finally, there’s Beyonce’s veil. The Veiled Virgin is one of the most recognizable symbols in western art. Stopping just shy of overt Madonna iconography, Bey’s veil is a greenish hue instead of the more traditional blue, but the message remains intact. Beyonce is the empowered mother of a new generation of black women, a message that seems incredibly apt for the first day of Black History Month.

(Sources: Western Oregon University, Signs and Symbolism in Christian Art, Dartmouth University)

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