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The Mourning Virgin

  • Object:

    The Mourning Virgin

  • Place of origin:

    England (made)

  • Date:

    ca. 1150 (made)

  • Artist/Maker:


  • Materials and Techniques:

    Copper alloy, hollow cast; gilded

  • Credit Line:

    Given by W.L. Hildburgh

  • Museum number:


  • Gallery location:

    Medieval & Renaissance, Room 8, The William and Eileen Ruddock Gallery, case 4

This small figure of the Virgin grieving for the death of her son, would have formed part of a group showing the Crucifixion, or perhaps the Deposition from the Cross. She faces to the right, which would allow her to stand in her traditional position to the left of such a group, with a corresponding figure of St John on the right. She was held in position by the use of two spikes which protrude from her back. She may have decorated a large crucifix, or possibly a reliquary casket or altarpiece.

Physical description

A figure of The Mourning Virgin , copper alloy, hollow-cast, gilded. The figure is depicted full-length, facing towards the right. She has a veil covering her head, and a plain circular halo. She holds her left hand against her cheek, in the traditional gesture of mourning, and her right hand reaches across her body up to the right. Her full-length robe falls to her feet.On the reverse, the figure has two projecting spikes pierced with small holes for horizontal pins. The back is hollow.

Place of Origin

England (made)


ca. 1150 (made)



Materials and Techniques

Copper alloy, hollow cast; gilded


Height: 10.6 cm, Width: 3.5 cm, Depth: 1.2 cm, Depth: 1.7 cm including spikes, Weight: 0.08 kg

Object history note

According to the register, the figure was bought in Ringwood market in the autumn of 1951 by an Italian fish and chip vendor who submitted it to the museum.

Historical context note

The figure must come from a Crucifixion, or Descent from the Cross group. Stratford 1984 links her to a brass Mourning Virgin figure from the British Museum (MME 1968, 7-7, 1, Stratford 1984, cat. no. 231, p. 241, illustrated p. 74) which is similar in type, thought slightly earlier in date. Both are rare survivals of applied 'bronzes' from larger ensembles, either from the left arm of a large crucifix, or from a group decorating a reliquary casket or altarpiece. Surviving metal altars in Scandinavia have Crucifixion groups, but these are in a repoussé technique rather than cast.

Descriptive line

'The Mourning Virgin', copper alloy figure, hollow-cast, gilded, England, ca.1150

Bibliographic References (Citation, Note/Abstract, NAL no)

Zarnecki, G. et al (eds.), English Romanesque Art 1066-1200, London, Weidenfeld and Nicolson, 1984

Labels and date

Gilt bronze
English; about 1150
From a Crucifixion group
Given by Dr. W. L. Hildburgh []

Production Note

Stratford 1984 relates the figure to mid 12th century English works like the rood from Barking Abbey and the Wareham lead font (G. Zarnecki, English Romanesque Lead Sculpture, London, 1957, plates 18-27).


Copper-alloy; Gold


Hollow-cast; Mercury-gilding


Christianity; Metalwork; Religion


Metalwork Collection

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