In medieval sculpture, individual body parts were often accentuated to convey meaning. Here, Mary’s oversized hands direct our attention to Jesus, enthroned upon his mother’s lap. This type of sculpture, much favored in the twelfth century, is known as a Throne of Wisdom (Sedes Sapientiae).
Appearing like a miniature adult, Jesus, as the Son of God, is Wisdom incarnate. He would have grasped a Bible, a further reference to the concept of divine wisdom that he embodies. Mary is both sculpture and vessel—her body has a cavity behind her shoulder, which suggests the work was a container for holy relics. Such devotional statues may have been carried in church processions.
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Title:Virgin and Child in Majesty
Geography:Made in Auvergne, France
Medium:Walnut with paint, tin relief on a lead white ground, and linen
Dimensions:Overall: 31 5/16 x 12 1/2 x 11 1/2 in. (79.5 x 31.7 x 29.2 cm)
Credit Line:Gift of J. Pierpont Morgan, 1916
Accession Number:16.32.194a, b
Emile Molinier, Paris; Georges Hoentschel (French); J. Pierpont Morgan (American), London and New York (until 1917)
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Conservator Lucretia Kargère discusses two twelfth-century sculptures in the Museum's collection that have been reunited at The Met Cloisters on the occasion of Heavenly Bodies: Fashion and the Catholic Imagination.
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