Enthroned Virgin

Date: ca. 1490–1500

Culture: Austrian

Medium: Limewood with gesso, paint and gilding

Dimensions: 31 5/8 x 23 1/4 x 9 1/4 in., 31lb. (80.3 x 59.1 x 23.5 cm, 14061.5g)

Classification: Sculpture-Wood

Credit Line: The Cloisters Collection, 2010

Accession Number: 2010.446


Created in northern Austria along the Danube River, this sculpture is notable for the deep, lyrical carving of the drapery. The current appearance of much of the surface is due to a past restoration that removed layers of over-paint, exposing some areas of gesso and bole, the reddish soft clay used as a base for gold leaf. The delicately applied paint on the Virgin's face is original, and the blue lining of her mantle, painted in intense azurite, retains much of its original appearance. The Virgin's hands, which would have held the infant Jesus, were carved separately and have been lost. The sculpture displays the mastery of the wood carver's art associated with the great altarpieces of the late Middle Ages, and it can be seen in the context of the monumental Kefermarkt altarpiece in Upper Austria, which is dated about 1490–1497. The Virgin was probably carved for the central section of a winged altarpiece, where she would have been flanked by angels or saints. The adjacent wings were likely painted or decorated with carvings in low relief representing scenes of the Life of the Virgin or the Infancy of Jesus.