From 1430 onwards, sculpture underwent a profound stylistic renewal which continued until 1530, the so-called late Gothic period. In the Germanic countries, original sculptures flourished in an expressive and sensitive vein.
This renewal was inspired by the art of Nicholas of Leiden, who was active in Strasbourg in the 1460’s. His style broke with the refined and delicate art of the international Gothic style in force throughout Europe around 1400. The figures became more authentic and realistic. The bodies became denser. Clothes are animated by deep, broken folds, the fabrics are heavy and have a great decorative value. In addition, the polychromy is intended to be illusionistic. The painting makes it possible to restore the texture of the materials, the richness of the textiles and the natural skin tone of the characters.
The dissemination of images through engraving and the great mobility of the artists led to the success of this style, which conquered the Upper Rhine, Swabian, Tyrolean and Franconian regions, contributing to the formation of a common stylistic identity in these regions. The economic boom in the flourishing German cities was conducive to the development of original production. Attracted by this prosperity, numerous workshops were set up in order to meet the orders of religious communities, the Church and the laity, including a clientele of middle-class rockers.
This precious Virgin and Child is depicted standing on a crescent moon, her head encircled by a crown of tall flowers. Her long wavy hair spreads over her shoulders, framing her beautiful oval face. Under fine eyebrows drawn with a brushstroke, her almond-shaped, slightly drooping eyes look at the Child with infinite softness. She is dressed in a long red dress with a rounded neckline, belted under the chest. The heavy fabric of her dress spreads out in broken folds at her feet. On her shoulders she wears a golden cloak. The drapery has deep folds. She holds out her right hand while she holds the Christ Child with her left.
Christ, with his well-defined hair, is naked. His cheeks are highlighted with red, he holds an apple in his left hand and with the other hand makes a sign of blessing towards the faithful.
Virgins with Child on a crescent moon were very popular in the second half of the 15th century, especially as the central subject of altarpieces in southern Germany and Austria. The crescent moon on which Mary is standing is reminiscent of the Woman of the Apocalypse. Often equated with the Virgin Mary.
This episode is taken from the Book of Revelation (12:1-6) :
Then a great sign appeared in heaven: a woman clothed with the sun, with the moon under her feet and a crown of twelve stars on her head. ; 2 She was pregnant, and she cried out because she was in labor, in pain from giving birth. ; 3 Then another sign appeared in heaven: it was a great fiery red dragon, with seven heads and ten horns, and seven royal crowns on his heads. ; 4 His tail swept down a third of heaven’s stars and threw them to the earth. The dragon stood in front of the woman who was about to give birth so that when she gave birth, he might devour her child. ; 5 She gave birth to a son, a male child who is to rule all the nations with an iron rod. Her child was snatched up to God and his throne. ; 6 Then the woman fled into the desert, where God has prepared a place for her. There she will be taken care of for one thousand two hundred sixty days.
Some theologians see in this woman a reference to the Virgin Mary and in the child, Jesus.This remarkable work is a very fine example of sculpture from Swabian workshops in the last decades of the 15th century. It presents all the characteristic stylistic elements: a highly girdled silhouette, an abundant drapery with angular folds, but also a great physical presence accentuated by the polychromy that restores the anatomical details. This group is made of a wooden log. The deep folds of the drapery highlight the movement of the Virgin holding the child.
Sophie Guillot de Suduiraut, Dévotion et Séduction, Sculptures souabes des musées de France, vers 1460-1530, Paris musée du Louvre-Éditions somogy, 2015
“Revelation 12 – Common English Bible ( CEB ) – a Great Sign Appeared in Heaven: A Woman Clothed W…”
Biblestudytools.com, www.biblestudytools.com/revelation/12.html. Accessed 5 Apr. 2023.