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Virgin and Child

Artist: Unknown Austrian Artist
Late 13th century
Dimensions: 33.5 x 14.5 x 12 in. (85.09 x 36.83 x 30.48 cm)
Object Type: Statue
Creation Place: Europe, Austria
Medium and Support: Beechwood
Credit Line: Lent by the Metropolitan Museum of Art, The Cloisters Collection, 1975 (1975.24)
Accession Number: L2010.01.20
On View: Bellarmine Hall Galleries

Seated on the Virgin’s lap, Christ lifts one hand in a gesture of blessing. His right foot appears caught in the folds of her drapery, a “highly unusual iconography feature [that] gives almost the effect that the Child is stepping out of His mother’s womb.” (Metropolitan Museum of Art, Notable Acquisitions 1965/1975, 153). The wooden surface, although much damaged, still retains significant traces of its original polychromy.
This statue portrays the common Medieval symbol of Mary’s Throne of Wisdom, and her role as Queen of Heaven. These were important themes during the 13th century, as devotion to Mary increased in the Christian church. The statue belongs to a category called “Majesties,” which are sculptures characterized by a rigid, symmetrical Mary holding an adult-looking Christ child on her lap. These statues were used in religious processions throughout medieval France and the Holy Roman Empire. The lack of jewels and adornments on the statue suggests that it originally belonged to a smaller church, as cathedral versions were often embedded with precious materials. This particular Virgin and Child statue exhibits more lifelike poses than many other examples, showing a transition from the Romanesque period to the more naturalistic Gothic style.

This sculpture formed part of the famous Rothschild collection, which was confiscated by the Nazis in 1938. By the end of World War II, the sculpture was being stored in the Altaussee Salt Mine in Austria alongside other looted works of art. After the war, it was returned to Louis de Rothschild and was later sold by his widow.


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Sculpture in the round, usually but not always depicting humans, animals, mythical beings, or small figure groups. Statues are relatively large in scale, being life-size, larger than life-size, or only slightly smaller than life-size. For small-scale representations of humans, animals, or mythical beings, use "figurines," "statuettes," or another appropriate term. For depictions of humans, animals, or mythical beings in media other than sculpture, use "figures (representations)."
public domain
Land owned and controlled by the state or federal government. Also, the status of publications, products, and processes that are not protected under patent or copyright.
Refers to the world religion and culture that developed in the first century CE, driven by the teachings of Jesus Christ of Nazareth. Its roots are in the Judaic tradition and the Old Testament. The tenets include a belief in the death and redemptive resurrection of Jesus. The religion incorporates a tradition of faith, ritual, and a form of church authority or leadership.
Three-dimensional works of art in which images and forms are produced in relief, in intaglio, or in the round. The term refers particularly to art works created by carving or engraving a hard material, by molding or casting a malleable material (which usually then hardens), or by assembling parts to create a three-dimensional object. It is typically used to refer to large or medium-sized objects made of stone, wood, bronze, or another metal. Small objects are typically referred to as "carvings" or another appropriate term. "Sculpture" refers to works that represent tangible beings, objects, or groups of objects, or are abstract works that have defined edges and boundaries and can be measured. As three-dimensional works become more diffused in space or time, or less tangible, use appropriate specific terms, such as "mail art" or "environmental art."
Refers to the period beginning in the Christianized Roman Empire in the fifth century and lasting until the Renaissance, which began in the 13th to the 15th century CE, depending upon which country is being discussed. The variety of styles that developed during the Medieval period are generally characterized by an evolution of the Greco-Roman tradition to incorporate Christian themes, the energetic spirit of the Celtic and Germanic peoples, and the thriving new towns populated by free men.
Pale reddish-brown, close-grain wood from any of several trees of the genus Fagus; it is hard and heavy, bends well, is durable under water, and gives a smooth shiny finish. Beech wood is commonly used for flooring, cabinetry, furniture (especially bentwood chairs), veneer, plywood, tool handles, and turnery. It was used in panel paintings in western Europe.

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