The goddess, the moon, and the weasel
On his canvas of Lucina Brembati Lorenzo Lotto portrayed two Lucinas. The first, a woman who longs to be pregnant and give birth to an heir who is strong and of good health whilst also hoping to survive the difficulties and dangers of pregnancy herself. Her pearls and embroidery shaped like shells allude to a fetus that grows in the uterus analogous to a pearl in its shell. The string of pearls coiled around her collar bears resemblance to an umbilical cord. What is portrayed is an aristocrat woman who believes in the power of a talisman: a weasel on a golden chain linked to her garment creates a symbolic connection to a woman’s belly. The weasel evokes the Ovidian myth of Lucina, the second Lucina portrayed by Lorenzo Lotto.
The moon shines bright in the darkness behind the woman and reveals Lu-CI-na, the Roman goddess of birth and of the moon. This celestial body marks rhythm and time and has its cycles as women have theirs. It gives light in the shadow of the unknown and is itself unknown like the secrets and uncertainties of life and birth. The favour of the midwife goddess is fickle: In the story of Hercules’ birth, Galanthis, Alcmene´s midwife, protected the parturient woman from the evil spells of Lucina (at the behest of the ever-jealous Juno) and so Hercules was born. In revenge, the fooled goddess Lucina turned the midwife into a weasel. This mustelid reflects the qualities of a good and faithful midwife and all it takes for a successful birth: It is agile, astute and it can fit in small holes. The tale of Galanthis offered hope and comfort to those in childbirth; as such women of the time often wore weasels as talismans, embodying the story. [Hannah Fischer-Monzón]