Saint Barbara

Date: ca. 1490

Geography: Made in probably Strasbourg, Alsace, present-day France

Culture: German

Medium: Limewood with paint

Dimensions: 50 1/4 × 17 × 13 1/4 in., 63 lb. (127.6 × 43.2 × 33.7 cm, 28576.613g)

Classification: Sculpture

Credit Line: The Cloisters Collection, 1955

Accession Number: 55.166


The 1874 sale of a Saint Catharine and a Saint Barbara from the Beinhaus of Kippenheim, on the east bank of the Rhine, and their subsequent history suggest that The Cloisters sculpture and another recorded with it, in the Historisches Museum, Basel, may well be the missing figures that belonged with sculptures of similar size of Saint Mauritius and Pope Gregory the Great that flanked a standing Virgin and Child in the altarpiece on the high altar of the Mauritiuskirche, Kippenheim. A comparison of the proportions, the modeling of the face and features, and the configuration of the massive drapery folds with those of the Virgin seems to confirm this provenance.

The colorful richness of the altarpiece can be judged by the figure, which retains much of its original polychromy and appliqué decoration of molded and gilt-wax brocade. Intricate foliate vine scrolls create arches over the five standing figures. These sculptures continue the monumental style and tradition of the late fifteenth century as developed in Strasbourg, particularly in the work of Niclaus Gerhaert von Leiden.