Offered by Galerie Gabrielle Laroche
Haute Epoque Fine Art
Mary is depicted on a throne bench of which we can only see the sides. She wears a tunic and a cloak covering her laps in the manner of an apron. The draperies are supple and follow the shape of the body.
Her face presents fine features with a high forehead, straight and thin nose and is framed by strands of curly hair.
She has delicate hands with elongated fingers. In her right hand she used to hold a flower of which only remains the stem. She holds the child Jesus on her left fore-arm. He wears a long tunic. His feet can be seen in the folds of the fabric. He holds a bird in his hands.
This group of the Virgin and Child still retains a straight and hieratic posture, the gaze unwavering. However, the child is slightly moving to the left side and shows a slight smile full of humanity. Those few characteristics, the fluid fabric, the large eyes and straight nose support a datation to the the late 13th century or the early years of the following century.
The presence of a bird as a symbolic element also stands in favour of such a datation. Indeed, it becomes a recurring attribute around the 13th century and can be interpreted in various manners.
The dove can represent the Holy Spirit. In 325, during the first Council of Nicea the Holy Spirit is recognised as the third hypostasis (entity) of the Trinity. In artistic depictions, the Holy Spirit is then symbolised as a dove. It reminds us of the divine conception of Jesus and his true nature.
However the dove appears very early in Paleochristian art where it stands for the freed soul saved by death.
Sometimes identified as a goldfinch, the bird is in that case a symbol of Jesus’ upcoming sacrifice.
It is then difficult to determine with certainty if the iconography of the bird is adopted by the sculptors as a way of evoking the true nature of Jesus or the divine sacrifice that will take place with the crucifixion.