The Cradle : Berthe Morisot and the Medicalization of Babies’ Sleep

Gal Ventura*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


The Cradle, painted in 1872 by Berthe Morisot, was considered a modern, intimate portrait of the artist’s sister Edma. Yet its main protagonist is in fact the corporeal portrayal of infantile sleep, which represents the hallmark of modernity, indicating progressive medicinal knowledge and hygiene awareness. The growing consumerism of sleep—reflected through the baby’s cradle, beddings, and clothing—coincided with pediatricians’ guidelines that stressed maternal responsibility over babies’ sleeping routines. The combination of these economic and medical influences designated young mothers to perform as “sleeping agents” while making them accountable for the orderliness, duration, and quality of their babies’ sleep.

Original languageAmerican English
Pages (from-to)89-117
Number of pages29
JournalArt Bulletin
Issue number2
StatePublished - 2022

Bibliographical note

Publisher Copyright:
© 2022 College Art Association.


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