Virgin and Child (from an group with the Adoration of the Magi)


On view at The Met Cloisters in Gallery 02

The story of the magi (wise men) offering gifts to the newborn Jesus was among the most popular of biblical subjects decorating northern Iberian churches in the later twelfth century. These sculptures (see also 30.77.6–.7, .9) typically portray the scene as a courtly encounter. Here, Mary and her infant son sit enthroned underneath an honorific canopy. Two magi (once accompanied by a now-lost third magus) approach mother and child with reverent postures. All of the figures’ voluminous garments help to convey the richness of the scene, evoking the setting of a foreign delegation’s visit. At odds with the humble setting of Jesus’ birth, this elevated portrayal serves to celebrate the event. The dozing figure at right is Joseph, husband of Mary and foster father of Jesus. His slumber alludes to his prophetic dreams, described in the Gospel of Matthew, which enabled him to protect his family. Sometime in the 1920s, these sculptures were photographed set into a side wall of the church of Our Lady of the Plain at Cerezo de Río Tirón, which had been abandoned at the end of the eighteenth century. Originally, the sculptures may have been located over the church’s main door.

Virgin and Child (from an group with the Adoration of the Magi), Limestone, Spanish

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