Banksy Trend Report Q1

Toxic
Mary

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Critical Review

Banksy’s 2003 Toxic Mary, draws on classical renaissance imagery to demonstrate the artist’s combined anti-religious, anti-capitalist criticism.

In his characteristic stencilled style, this screenprint shows the Virgin Mary in her drapery feeding her infant son. The motif draws many parallels with classic Renaissance paintings of the Madonna and Child, however this controversial, (some have even called it blasphemous) work breaks firmly with tradition. The Banksy print here shows the Virgin feeding her baby with a neon bottle, marked with the ancient symbol for poison – the skull and crossbones – no less.

It is interesting to note that the work varies formally from Banksy’s usual style, with the clean lines of the stencil swapped for what looks like dripping paint that runs past the frame of the main image in a striking trompe l’oeil effect. However, the print does share a similar theme and style with his later work Christ With Shopping Bags made in 2004, which also uses religious iconography to criticise mass consumerism and capitalism, and denounces the perversion of Christian values, especially the celebration of Christmas.

With its dull colours brought into relief by the yellow of the toxic bottle and the drips that seem to show the scene melting before our eyes, the print is undoubtedly one of Banksy’s darker works, evoking a sense of despair without any of the usual humour he employs to lift a bleak attack on society to witty satire.