Attributed to Claus de Werve (Franco–Netherlandish, ca. 13801439, active in Burgundy, 1396ca. 1439)
French; Made in Poligny, Burgundy
Limestone, polychromy, gilding; 53 3/8 x 41 1/8 in. (135.5 x 104.5 cm)
Rogers Fund, 1933 (33.23)
This monumental yet engagingly intimate image of the Virgin and Child was probably a gift of John the Fearless, duke of Burgundy (died 1419), or his wife Margaret of Bavaria (died 1424) to the convent they founded at Poligny dedicated to the Franciscan Order of Poor Clares. This is one of four large sculptures from Poligny in the Museum's collection. As court sculptor in Dijon, the influential artist Claus de Werve (active 1396ca. 1439) created many works for his patrons, and this is certainly one of his masterpieces. Its original location in the convent is unknown, but the sculpture was probably installed in the area reserved for the devotions of the nuns. In this tender portrayal, Mary's role as a personification of Wisdom is evoked by the open book on Christ's lap. In contrast to the warmth of the depiction of mother and son, the biblical inscription on the bench reminds us of Christ's fulfillment of Old Testament prophecy: "From the beginning, and before the world, was I created " (Ecclesiasticus 24:14).