"Madonna and Child in Majesty". Polychromed wood. Aragonese or Catalan workshop?. Gothic. 14th century.
64 x 19 x 22 cm.
The cult of the Virgin Mary would not reach a preeminent place in Christian art until the twelfth century, becoming one of the favorite iconographies in religious imagery throughout the thirteenth and fourteenth centuries.
This beautiful Maiestas Mariae or Madonna and Child in Majesty, heiress of the Byzantine Theotokos, is an exceptional example of the level achieved by local workshops, quasi-artisans who worked at the beginning of the Gothic period in Aragon, or perhaps in Catalonia, in which, despite being quite modest in scope, the sculptures are outstanding in their somewhat naïve charm.
The theme of the Virgin Mary as the throne of Christ enjoyed great popularity, which led to the development of numerous typologies and variants. In this case, Mary is represented with an elongated canon, perceptible especially in the body and hands. There is also a slight anatomical disproportion in the legs, which are too short for such a model. She is sitting on a bench without a back. She has an oval face with barely carved facial features, which are perceptible mostly through the polychrome applied to the curved eyebrows, large almond-shaped eyes and closed mouth. The latter has thick red lips. At the sides are polychromed rosy cheeks. There is a prominent thick nose, powerful chin, and cylindrical neck, almost the same thickness as the head. She wears a simple golden headdress that covers both the hair and the ears, falling on both sides of the face. Clothed in a reddish tunic, her neck is traversed by a golden border, in which there are golden dots which even have schematic geometric motifs on them. Above it is a bluish mantle that falls down her back and is gathered at her knees, so that the Child can rest on it. The feet are encased in sharp-tipped shoes.
The Madonna’s right hand is missing, in which she may have carried some attribute or fruit – perhaps it was the often used apple that symbolizes her victory over sin and her conversion into the new Eve –while with her left hand she holds her Son, whom she has place on her left knee – this typology is one of the most popular. According to Georg Weise it has its origin in Our Lady of the Slave from the Vitoria Cathedral, dated to the late thirteenth century. The Christ Child, as usual in this period, is not a child, but an adult on a smaller scale. The face and hairstyle are a repetition of those of the Mother, although in this case the headdress is replaced by blond hair. He wears a tunic that completely covers his body. It is white, with the neck traversed by a golden border, and is completely covered by stylized floral decorations. Like the Mother, the left hand, in which he would have held the orb of the world, is missing.
Although during the Gothic period an affectionate communication between Mother and Son was developed, in this example there is a noticeable lack of communication in addition to a slight stiffness to both figures only broken by the slight turning of Mary's face to the right and the Son to the left. Although it is difficult to establish a chronology and a specific affiliation for this type of carving, especially for these cases in which its great antiquity is joined to the fact that it is the product of a small, local artisan workshop, the sculpture could date to the fourteenth century and is perhaps from some Aragonese or Catalan workshop.
We would like to thank Dr. Javier Baladrón, PhD in History of Art, for the identification and cataloguing of this lot.
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