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The Cover
May 5, 2010

Woman in a Red Bodice and Her Child

JAMA. 2010;303(17):1674. doi:10.1001/jama.2010.415

The bond between mother and child exists throughout Nature, although its expression varies by species. Sperm whales, in their Caribbean breeding grounds off the island of Dominica, maintain matriarchal leadership in their pods. Imagine the awesome sight of a 60-ton female sperm whale buoyed on the water's surface, stretched out and virtually immobile, while her newborn calf bounces around to nurse. The infant takes shallow, short dives, staying submersed only long enough to obtain a burst of nutrition before popping up to take a baby-sized breath. The human mother-child interaction, however, comprises complex emotions, often fraught with physical distance, pain, and even cruelty. Artists have explored this bond—transcending barriers of time, culture, and ethnicity—but no single painter remains better known for depiction of a mother and child than Mary Cassatt (1844-1926).

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