Or are you looking for Search the Archives?

Please complete the form to email this item.

Statuette - The Virgin and Child

The Virgin and Child

  • Object:


  • Place of origin:

    France ((Paris) or England (probably Westminster), made)

  • Date:

    ca. 1360 - ca. 1380 (made)

  • Artist/Maker:


  • Materials and Techniques:

    Elephant ivory

  • Museum number:


  • Gallery location:

    Sculpture, Room 111, The Gilbert Bayes Gallery, case 9, shelf 2

This ivory statuette representing the Virgin and Child is made in France (Paris) or England (probably Westminster), in about 1360-1380. The group has an inherent quality and was apparently set in a silver or gilt-copper tabernacle shrine which suggests that it was an especially revered image, perhaps originally kept in a private oratory or chapel.
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.
Throughout the ages artists and craftsmen have made virtuoso carvings as a display of their skill and ingenuity. Although ivory, wood and stone are relatively easy to carve, other materials such as gemstones are much more demanding. Most of these carvings were made for wealthy patrons and collectors, who delighted in the rarity of the material and quality of the carving. Parisian workshops made Gothic ivories of the Virgin and Child in large numbers for private devotional use.

Physical description

Ivory statuette of the Virgin and Child. The Virgin, wearing a tight cote-hardie under her long mantle, is seated on a sloping throne with traceried arcades. She rests on a long cushion, its cover laced at each end and with tassels at the corners. She holds on her right knee the seated Child, who looks up at her and clasps a fold of her veil and a bird in His left hand; the Virgin's left hand is on His knee. Now missing her crown, under her veil her hair is drawn back in the side-nets of a fashionable lady of the second half of the 14th century; also exceptionally for a figure of the Virgin in ivory, she wears a ring on the 'wedding' finger of each hand. The back of the sculpture is flat, obviously intended to be set against a separate background. There are several losses, like the right arm of the Child Christ and her index finger and thumb of the left hand. Also missing are two fingers and her thumb of the right hand.

Place of Origin

France ((Paris) or England (probably Westminster), made)


ca. 1360 - ca. 1380 (made)



Materials and Techniques

Elephant ivory


Height: 18 cm, Width: 11.1 cm at base

Object history note

Purchased from the Webb Collection in 1867 (£42). Formerly in the Hertz Collection (Hertz Sale, Phillips, 25 March, 1857, No. 238).

Descriptive line

Statuette, ivory, The Virgin and Child, French (Paris) or English (Westminster?), ca. 1360-1380

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

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
Porter, D. A. [PhD Dissertation] Ivory Carving in Later Medieval England 1200-1400. State University of New York, Binghampton, 1974, cat. no. 54
Longhurst, Margaret H. Catalogue of Carvings in Ivory. London: Published under the Authority of the Board of Education, 1927-1929, Part II, p. 7
Brown, F. P. London Sculpture. London: Sir I. Pitman & Sons, ltd., 1934, p. 34
p. 77
Maskell, W. A Description of the Ivories Ancient and Medieval in the South Kensington Museum, London, 1872
part 1, pp. 62-65
Williamson, Paul and Davies, Glyn, Medieval Ivory Carvings, 1200-1550, (in 2 parts), V&A Publishing, Victoria and Albert Museum, London, 2014
I, p. 251, II, cat. no. 708 bis, III, pl. CXV
Koechlin, R., Les Ivoires gothiques français, 3 vols, Paris, 1924 (reprinted Paris 1968)
pp. 102-3
Grodecki, Louis. Ivoires Français. Paris, 1947
Williamson, Paul and Davies, Glyn, Medieval Ivory Carvings, 1200-1550, (in 2 parts), V&A Publishing, Victoria and Albert Museum, London, 2014, part 1, pp. 62-65, cat. no. 15



Subjects depicted



Christianity; Sculpture; Religion


Sculpture Collection

Large image request

Please confirm you are using these images within the following terms and conditions, by acknowledging each of the following key points:

Please let us know how you intend to use the images you will be downloading.