Offered by Galerie Sismann
European old master sculpture
This formerly polychromed and gilded oak altarpiece fragment depicts the Swoon of the Virgin. This episode inspired by the apocryphal gospels of Nicodemus experienced its greatest development at the end of the Middle Ages, particularly within the production of sculpted altarpieces.
The sculptor immortalizes here the moment when the Virgin fainted under the effect of the pain felt at the sight of the suffering of her son on the cross. Mary is held back in her fall by the apostle John, with curly hair and a beardless youthful face. Dressed in an elegant headdress with a roll tied under her chin, Marie Madeleine carries the inert hand of the Virgin while wiping away her tears with the lapel of her coat in a gesture filled with pathos. In the background, a third veiled holy woman joins her prayers and sorrow to the group.
This fragment must once have logically taken its place in the dexter wing of an altarpiece, at the foot of a Crucifixion. From a stylistic point of view, it should be compared to the Swoon of the church of Noirval, in the Ardennes, which was also once part of a larger altarpiece. Besides the fact that it uses a very similar composition, its protagonists also have the same faces as those visible on our panel. The latter are characterized by full faces marked with small ball chins, a pointed nose and very stretched fine almond eyes. This close stylistic proximity between the two reliefs makes it possible to attribute them to the same workshop.
Undoubtedly taking the famous altarpieces of the southern Netherlands as a model, this altarpiece lifts the veil on an original production from the Ardennes that is still little known, and through its discovery completes the landscape of "France of altarpieces" at the end of the Middle Ages.