Madonna, 1894 by Edvard Munch
Originally called Loving Woman, this picture can be taken to symbolize what Munch considered the essential acts of the female life cycle: sexual intercourse, causing fertilization, procreation and death. Evidence for the first is in the picture itself, an intensified, spiritualized variation in the nude of the 'mating' pose, the woman depicted as though recumbent beneath her lover. The ethereal beauty of her face was said to resemble both Dagny Przybyszewska and her sister Ragnhild Backstrom. Procreation was implied by the decoration of the original frame, later discarded, on which were painted drops of semen and an embryo. That Munch associated the image with death is clear from his own comments on the picture, in which he sees it as representing the eternal cyclical process of generation and decay in nature. He continually connected love with death: for the man, because it eviscerated him, for the woman, because, following Schopenhauer, he appears to have thought her function ended with child-bearing.