The Virgin and Child thumbnail 1
The Virgin and Child thumbnail 2
+21
images
Image of Gallery in South Kensington
On display at V&A South Kensington
Medieval & Renaissance, Room 10

This object consists of 2 parts, some of which may be located elsewhere.

The Virgin and Child

Statuette
ca. 1310-1320 (made)
Artist/Maker
Place Of Origin

The love of elegance for its own sake increasingly dominated European art at the beginning of the fourteenth century, a development which co-incided with an increasing emphasis on the human qualities of the Virgin Mary. This statuette depicts the Virgin as gentle and maternal, smiling down at her inquisitive son.
In her right hand the Virgin holds a cylindrical object, the stem of a lily (now lost) which symbolised Mary's virginal state when her son was conceived by the Holy Spirit. The crown on her head distinguishes her as the quen of heaven. This Virgin and Child forms part of a now well-known group of similar pieces. These comparatively large ivory sculptures were presumably made for an élite market. They may not all be by the same hand, but they share details of pose and style, which pressupose a common approach and intimately related workshops.
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
Parts
This object consists of 2 parts.

  • Group
  • Fragment
Materials and Techniques
Carved elephant ivory
Brief Description
Statuette, ivory, of the Virgin and Child, France (Paris), ca. 1310-1320
Physical Description
Ivory statuette of the Virgin and Child. The Virgin turns to look at Her Child. The Child Christ, dressed in a long tunic, holds an apple in His left hand, and His right is stretched out as if to touch the lily.

As Maskell noted, the proportions are incorrect, her head being too small and her legs below the knee much too long. Over her veil she wears a low coronet which once consisted of eight fleurons. She wears a long mantle over belted gown and holds in her right hand a cylinder which once contained the stem of a tall lily, now missing.
Dimensions
  • Of virgin height: 35.5cm
  • Maximum width width: 13.2cm
  • Depth: 7cm
  • Weight: 3.22kg
  • Total height including base height: 40.5
Measured for the Medieval and Renaissance Galleries 2005
Object history
Formerly in the Humann Collection, Paris, 8-15 February 1858; sold 8 February, lot 2; Then with John Webb. Purchased from him in 1858.

This is one of the largest and most well known of these figures, which were predominantly intended for private devotion. The imposing figure is carved from a single piece of ivory, and the elegant sway of the Virgin's pose follows the slight curve of the elephant's tusk.



Historical significance: In the second half of the thirteenth century, the emphasis in production shifted towards private sculptural commissions, more particularly portable devotional objects, and numerous ivory Madonnas and diptychs survive from the thirteenth and fourteenth century. The models for such portable pieces are found in monumental sculpture, but small ivories allowed a refinement of detail which would usually have been out of place in larger works. The love of elegance for its own sake dominated art at the end of this period.
Historical context
The thirteenth century saw the development of the cult of the Virgin which had grown up in the previous century. The Hours of the Virgin were now recited daily and many tracts were written upon her virtues and her symbolic status. The most frequently recurring theme is that of the Virgin as the Queen of Heaven. In the thirteenth century the idea of the Virgin interceding to save the repentant sinner is more fully developed, and representations of her become more gentle and maternal.
Subject depicted
Summary
The love of elegance for its own sake increasingly dominated European art at the beginning of the fourteenth century, a development which co-incided with an increasing emphasis on the human qualities of the Virgin Mary. This statuette depicts the Virgin as gentle and maternal, smiling down at her inquisitive son.

In her right hand the Virgin holds a cylindrical object, the stem of a lily (now lost) which symbolised Mary's virginal state when her son was conceived by the Holy Spirit. The crown on her head distinguishes her as the quen of heaven. This Virgin and Child forms part of a now well-known group of similar pieces. These comparatively large ivory sculptures were presumably made for an élite market. They may not all be by the same hand, but they share details of pose and style, which pressupose a common approach and intimately related workshops.

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.
Associated Objects
Bibliographic References
  • Williamson, Paul (ed.), The Medieval Treasury: the art of the Middle Ages in the Victoria and Albert Museum, Victoria & Albert Museum, London, 1986pp. 196-197
  • Inventory of Art Objects Acquired in the Year 1858. In: Inventory of the Objects in the Art Division of the Museum at South Kensington, Arranged According to the Dates of their Acquisition. Vol I. London: Printed by George E. Eyre and William Spottiswoode for H.M.S.O., 1868, p. 15
  • Longhurst, Margaret H. Catalogue of Carvings in Ivory. Part II. London: Victoria and Albert Museum, 1929, p. 30
  • Williamson, Paul and Davies, Glyn, Medieval Ivory Carvings, 1200-1550, (in 2 parts), V&A Publishing, Victoria and Albert Museum, London, 2014part I, pp. 40-43
  • Maskell, W. A Description of the Ivories Ancient and Medieval in the South Kensington Museum, London, 1872pp. 15-16
  • Maskell, A., Ivories, London, 1905pp. 169-170, pl. XXXVII
  • Koechlin, R., Les Ivoires gothiques français, 3 vols, Paris, 1924 (reprinted Paris 1968)I, p. 107, II, cat. no. 104
  • Williamson, Paul. An Introduction to Medieval Ivory Carvings, London, 1982p. 44, pl. 29
  • Williamson, Paul, The Thyssen-Bornemisza Collection. Medieval Sculpture and Works of Art, London, 1987p. 118, 120 (fig. 3)
  • Williamson, Paul, and Motture, Peta (eds.), Medieval and Renaissance Treasures, Victoria and Albert Museum, London, 2010
  • Williamson, Paul (ed.), The Medieval Treasury: the art of the Middle Ages in the Victoria and Albert Museum, Victoria & Albert Museum, London, 1986, pp. 196, 197
  • Williamson, Paul, and Motture, Peta (eds.), Medieval and Renaissance Treasures, Victoria and Albert Museum, London, 2010, cat. no. 20
  • 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. 40-43, cat. no. 6
Collection
Accession Number
4685&:2-1858

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record createdJanuary 15, 2003
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