Madonna released Like A Virgin, her second studio album, in November 1984. When her name, “Madonna,” first emerged on the music charts in the early ’80s, many had only heard the name in reference to the Christian Mother of God. The original “Madonna” was the matriarchal symbol of Roman Catholicism and Western Christianity. Madonna the entertainer, however, who moved languidly and beguilingly through the canals of Venice, soon proved she was unlike this original female figure of purity and divinity.
The album Like A Virgin soon defined Madonna as the seminal 1980s pop star, as she symbolically entered the culture war debates of the 1980s (sex, feminism, and career women) and helped change a generation of young girls into sexually expressive adults and alerted woman to the dated ideologies of religion and gender norms. Women idolized the transformative transgressions of Madonna, a star who wanted to be in control of sexual identity and dictate the terms of her own erotic encounters.
The cover sleeve and images were shot by Steven Meisel, who would become a regular collaborator with Madonna, in a suite at the St. Regis Hotel. Madonna wanted the album title to make provocative link between her own religious name—Madonna as the Roman Catholic title for Jesus’ mother Mary—and the Christian concept of the virgin birth. With the title song alluding to this concept, Madonna wanted the album cover to have mixed messages as well.
(Photos by Steven Meisel)