Hektoen International

A Journal of Medical Humanities

Pregnancy and art

Bojana Cokić
Zajecar, Serbia

Pregnancy, the beginning of a new life, was historically uncommon in art. The shape of a pregnant woman does not conform to classical Greek ideals of the female figure, which may have contributed to this rarity. Over time, misconceptions about this necessary, natural phenomenon have changed, and pregnancy has become more common in works of art.

According to modern research, Leonardo da Vinci’s Mona Lisa was a pregnant woman, which is why she mysteriously smiles. The great Raphael also painted a pregnant woman in La Donna Gravida, drawing particular attention to her stomach by the posturing of her hands. Rubens, Dürer, and Van Gogh, too, were inspired by pregnancy and women with children. Later saw Klimt’s Hoffnung I and II (Hope I and Hope II) and the works of Cassatt.

Figure 1. Pregnant “Paleolithic Venus”, made of stone.
Figure 2. Saint Pepin de Landen and his daughter Saint Begge.
Peter Paul Reubens, 1612–1615.
Figure 3. Hoffnung II/Hope II. Gustav Klimt, 1907–08.
Figure 4. Pregnant Woman. Pablo Picasso, 1950.
Figure 5. Pregnancy of Dream. Kot Valeriv, 2014.

Further reading

Diagnosing Mona Lisa, Howard Fischer


  1. Panda SC. “Medicine: Science or Art?” Mens Sana Monogr. Jan-Dec 2006;4(1):127-38. doi: 10.4103/0973-1229.27610.
  2. Matthews, Sandra, and Laura Wexler. Pregnant Pictures. Routledge, 2013. Google Books.
  3. Dixson, Alan, and Barnaby Dixson. “Venus Figurines of the European Paleolithic: Symbols of Fertility or Attractiveness?” Journal of Anthropology 2011:1-11. doi:10.1155/2011/569120.
  4. Portraying Pregnancy: From Holbein to Social Media.” Foundling Museum, London. January 25 – April 26, 2020.

BOJANA COKIĆ, MD, is a pediatrician at Children’s Hospital in Zajecar, Serbia, where she was been Head of Department Pediatrics from 1986 to 2004 and Head of the Neonatology Service since 2007. She graduated from the Faculty of Medicine, University of Belgrade in 1981, where she completed her residency in pediatrics in 1989. Her specialization is in clinical genetics; in 1992 she introduced a registry in Zajecar for congenital anomalies and in 2009, she established the Association for Down Syndrome in Zajecar. She has published about sixty papers.

As of April 24, 2021, she is in pension with active participation in professional meetings. She works in the private pediatric practice “LAZARICA Pediatim”, which she founded.

Fall 2023



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