EXTRAORDINARY SCULPTURE

"Standing Madonna"
Cologne
Around 1380
Carved walnut
Original, closed, polychrome frame
Height 64 cm

Comparable representations:
Thyssen Bornemisza Collection
Schnütgen Museum, Cologne

Thisexpressive Madonna is a masterfully carved sculpture 64 cm high. It was probably created around 1380, in the first traits of the so-called International Style, which characterizes numerous depictions of the Madonna around 1400. Stylistically, the manner of drapery is to be classified in France; however, the figure reflects features of image carving on the course of the Rhine.

While Maria already shows the characteristic S-curve, which is typical for the so-called “Beautiful Madonnas”, the soft modeling is a clear indication of the assignment to the last quarter of the 14th century. The diagonality of the fold alignment and the stylized tapering bowl folds are underlined by the doughy falling coverlet, which Maria lifts up almost coquettishly with her left hand. With her right hand she holds her son pressed against her, who, as usual in the time before 1400, is dressed in a long robe and enthroned in a static-upright posture in his mother’s arms. In his hand Jesus holds a dove, which he seems to be feeding. This can be interpreted as a symbol of Mary’s chastity, as a redeemed soul, or as a reference to the Apocrypha about the young Jesus who brought clay pigeons to life. Especially the long locks of hair and the elongated body of Jesus lead to the conclusion that this is not a baby but a toddler. Such representations enjoyed great popularity and were particularly symbolic. Mary as an intercessor looks at the viewer with a serious expression; the high forehead reflects the medieval ideal of beauty. Similar to a crane hairstyle, the filigree Gothic curls are covered by the dense veil and emphasize the figure’s distinguished design. The pectoral girdle with floral motifs reflects the floral decoration of the dress and coverlet; this is blue on the outside and red on the inside, two colors particularly associated with Mary in this combination, which in their symbolism both refer to Mary as Queen of Heaven and foreshadow the Passion of Christ.

There are very few comparative examples from this period. A characteristically closely related depiction of the Madonna can be found in the Schnütgen Museum in Cologne, and another in the Thyssen-Bornemisza Collection.