The tree of Jesse materializes the family tree of Jesus. The oldest
representation of this subject dates from 1086, in the Codex Vyssegradensis, the gospel of the coronation of Vratislas II of Bohemia.
This work, extremely rare, due to the fact that it is made of limestone, is in reality a fragment of this family tree. This pattern shows a medieval theology of sacred history which presents the Old Testament as a preparation of the New Testament. A phrase from Isaiah is often written on these representations: “A branch will come out of the stump of Jesse, a shoot will spring up from his roots. The spirit of the Lord will rest on him.” This allows us to illustrate in images the fact that God announced the birth of a new David, in this one's descendants.
The whole must have been located in a church, perhaps private. The original blue polychromy has rubbed off over time on the face of the character on the right. These characters were Saints, the most represented were Mary, Jesse, Moses, but also David or Noah. Concerning the two characters, they each emerge from a flower which is connected to a branch from which leaves also emerge.
We can see on the right a woman with a halo, she is wearing a coat, a veil covers her head, her arms are crossed and one is invisible because it is hidden under the coat, while the other comes out to reveal her right hand. His face, typical of medieval art, is tilted, his gaze transmits two emotions: on the one hand it gives the impression that the character is immersed in deep reflection, on the other hand, one could have the impression that She gives a look of kindness, a bit like a mother might do towards her son.
We can see traces of tools on the work, mainly on the clothing of the characters. It looks like small ribs which give volume to the sculpture.
This woman could be the Samaritan woman who was sometimes represented in this type of work, or the widow of Zarephath who is a character rarely present in religious writings, but sometimes inserted in representations of the tree of Jesse.
Concerning the figure on his right, he is probably a man given the way his clothing is cut. His face, although missing, also had a halo; a small piece of it remains visible. We cannot see his hands which are clasped in the sleeves of his coat.
Many stained glass windows depicting the tree of Jesse survive in various churches. We can particularly note that of the Cathedral of Notre-Dame de Chartres which is located under the Rose Window on the west facade, it has been classified as a historic monument since 1840.
This tree, in addition to representing the ancestors of Jesus, also has a symbolic significance of protection, peace, but also resilience in the face of life's trials.
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