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Virgin Fainting at the Cross

Artist: Unknown Flemish Primary
early 16th century
Dimensions: 14.02 x 12.68 x 2.87 in. (35.6 x 32.2 x 7.3 cm)
Object Type: Sculpture
Creation Place: Europe, Netherlands (Flemish)
Medium and Support: Oak
Credit Line: Lent by the Metropolitan Museum of Art, Gift of J. Pierpont Morgan, 1916 (16.32.263)
Accession Number: L2010.01.07
On View: Bellarmine Hall Galleries

Devotional sculptures of this type were common on altars in churches and private homes, where they would have been placed with other scenes (as seen here) to collectively create a story for the viewer and foster contemplation. The principal theme of this type of sculpture was the suffering and sacrifice of Christ for human redemption. The subjects in this case belong to a category known as the Seven Sorrows of the Virgin. In these sculptures, the emotions of the Virgin Mary demonstrate the type of empathetic response that was encouraged for the faithful. By reflecting upon the grief of Christ’s mother, the faithful would contemplate the means of Christian redemption. Although these three sculptures from the School of Antwerp are all made of oak and carved in the expressive style known as mannerism, they were likely not made by the same artist or originally displayed together.

The Virgin Fainting at the Cross depicts, from left to right, John the Apostle, the Virgin Mary, and Mary Magdalene at the Crucifixion of Jesus Christ. Mary’s falling action shows her sorrow at the death of her Son. Mary’s compassion was viewed as a form of imitatio Christi, in which she falls as if dying herself.

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