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Image of Gallery in South Kensington
On display at V&A South Kensington
Medieval & Renaissance, Room 9, The Dorothy and Michael Hintze Gallery

Virgin and Child

Statuette
ca. 1280-1300 (made)
Artist/Maker
Place Of Origin

During the 13th century, Paris became Europe’s leading centre for ivory carving. The white colour and lustrous surface of ivory suited the Gothic taste for delicacy and refinement. Touches of colour emphasised the sheen of the unpainted areas. The clearly affectionate relationship between the Virgin and Christ is typical of the Gothic style.
This is one of the finest seated Virgin and Child statuettes. Stylistically it occupies a transitional position between the best works of the third quarter of the thirteenth century, such as the Sainte-Chapelle Virgin in the Louvre and the so-called 'Frigolet Virgin' now in the Thomson Collection in Toronto.
Three dimensional images of the Virgin and Child were ubiquitous from the twelfth to the fifteenth centuries, produced in a wide range of materials and sizes and testifying the overwhelming devotion to th Virgin. Together with the Crucifixion, statues and statuettes of the Virgin and Child were the pricipal objects of devotion in the Christian Church, and vast numbers were made for ecclesisastical, monastic and private worship.


object details
Categories
Object Type
Materials and Techniques
Elephant ivory
Brief Description
Statuette, ivory, The Virgin and Child, France (Paris), ca. 1280-1300
Physical Description
Ivory statuette depicting the Virgin and Child. The Virgin, seated on a low throne, supports the Christ child on her left knee. The Child is shown playing with a bird, holding it by its open wings. The small bird (usually a goldfinch) often held by the Child in such groups alludes to Christ's future Passion because of that bird's fondness for thistle seed thus linking it to the Crown of Thorns. Here there is a possible allusion to Christ's Crucifixion in the outstretched wings of the bird. There are considerable remains of paint and gilding on the ivory: the hair of both the Virgin and the Child is gilded, the borders of the Virgin's robe retain extensive traces of a gilded pattern, and her belt is decorated with green and gilt bands. The inside of the Virgin's robe was originally painted, but of this only a faint staining remains, and the inside of the child's tunic is red.
Dimensions
  • Height: 20.1cm
  • Width: 9.2cm
  • Depth: 7.3cm
  • Weight: 0.74kg
Measured for the Medieval and Renaissance Galleries 2006.
Object history
Possibly to be identified with an ivory in the Sommeson collection until 1848, sold 25 January 1848, lot 123; Rattier collection, Paris until 1859; bought by John Webb, London at the Rattier sale, Paris, 21-24 March 1859, lot 192; purchased from John Webb in 1867.



Historical significance: The Seated Virgin seems to represent a transitional point between the first High Gothic Virgins of the third quarter of the thirteenth century and the later group, which testifies to the longevity of the basic type of Virgin and Child between 1260 and 1340.
Historical context
The Virgin came to occupy a central role in late medieval spirituality. Numerous figures of the Virgin in ivory survive. Some were originally set in ivory tabernacles.
Subjects depicted
Summary
During the 13th century, Paris became Europe’s leading centre for ivory carving. The white colour and lustrous surface of ivory suited the Gothic taste for delicacy and refinement. Touches of colour emphasised the sheen of the unpainted areas. The clearly affectionate relationship between the Virgin and Christ is typical of the Gothic style.

This is one of the finest seated Virgin and Child statuettes. Stylistically it occupies a transitional position between the best works of the third quarter of the thirteenth century, such as the Sainte-Chapelle Virgin in the Louvre and the so-called 'Frigolet Virgin' now in the Thomson Collection in Toronto.

Three dimensional images of the Virgin and Child were ubiquitous from the twelfth to the fifteenth centuries, produced in a wide range of materials and sizes and testifying the overwhelming devotion to th Virgin. Together with the Crucifixion, statues and statuettes of the Virgin and Child were the pricipal objects of devotion in the Christian Church, and vast numbers were made for ecclesisastical, monastic and private worship.
Bibliographic References
  • M. Longhurst, Carvings in Ivory, vol. II, London, 1929, pp. 29-30, pl. XXVIII
  • Inventory of Art Objects acquired in the Year 1867. Inventory of the Objects in the Art Division of the Museum at South Kensington, arranged According to the Dates of their Acquisition. Vol. 1. London : Printed by George E. Eyre and William Spottiswoode for H.M.S.O., 1868, p. 12
  • Cascio, Agnès and Lèvy, Juliette. La polychromie des statuettes en ivoire du XIIIe siècle et des premières décennies du XIVe siècle. Corè. November 1998, 5, pp. 6-20
  • Les fastes du gothique : le siècle de Charles V. Paris, 1981, no. 130, p. 176
  • Cf. Randall, Richard H. Jr. A Monumental Ivory. In: McCracken, Ursula E., ed. Gatherings in honor of Dorothy E. Miner. Baltimore: The Walters Art Gallery, 1974, pp. 283-300
  • Gaborit-Choppin, Danielle. Ivoires du Moyen Age. Fribourg: Officec du Livre, cop., 1978. n. 204, p. 205
  • Gaborit-Chopin, Danielle. "La Fuite en Égypte" du Museo del Duomo de Savona et l'orfèvrerie gothique française. In: Calderoni Masetti, Anna Roan and Fabio, Clario Di and Marcenaro, Mario, eds. Tessuti, oreficerie, miniature in Liguria: XIII-XV Secolo. Bordighera, 1999, pp. 98-88, fig. 16
  • Longhurst, Margaret H. Catalogue of Carvings in Ivory. London: Published under the Authority of the Board of Education, 1927-1929, Part II, p. 29
  • Williamson, Paul and Davies, Glyn, Medieval Ivory Carvings, 1200-1550, (in 2 parts), V&A Publishing, Victoria and Albert Museum, London, 2014part I, pp. 32-35
  • Maskell, W. A Description of the Ivories Ancient and Medieval in the South Kensington Museum, London, 1872p. 76, ill.
  • Maskell, A., Ivories, London, 1905p. 169
  • Koechlin, R., Les Ivoires gothiques français, 3 vols, Paris, 1924 (reprinted Paris 1968)I, p. 103, II, cat. no. 86, III, pl. XXVIII
  • Williamson, Paul and Davies, Glyn, Medieval Ivory Carvings, 1200-1550, (in 2 parts), V&A Publishing, Victoria and Albert Museum, London, 2014, part I, pp. 32-35, cat. no. 3
Collection
Accession Number
200-1867

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record createdJanuary 13, 2003
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