By the middle of the 12th century the Virgin Mary appears in churches seating in majesty and acting as a throne for her child Jesus. She is then called Sedes Sapientiae meaning throne of wisdom. She is not really depicted for herself but rather because she has been designated as Theotokos, mother of God, during the council of Ephesus in 431. The same council promulgated Christ’s nature was divine since his birth.
The theme of the Virgin and Child in Majesty was particularly important during Medieval times. Pilgrims favoured its development while spreading its iconography.
This Virgin and Child seating on a bench throne wears supple clothes elongating her figure. The dress is belted and the collar is round worn under a coat covering her knees. The pleats of the fabric are absolutely Gothic in style. They adopt a strong V shape with deep angles on the cloak and delicate inclined pleats on the tunic.
The Virgin presents an oval face with a straight nose, a small mouth and small round chin. She wears a crown. Her curly hair spreads on her back in well defined strands.
The child does not adopt the hieratic position of 12th century sculpted groups. He slightly turns his head towards his mother’s hand. Furthermore he is presented unsteady giving a sense of movement as well as producing a deep fold, shaped as an M, in his tunic. This detail is characteristic of Castilian productions from the late 13th century and early 14th century.
Indeed the mother and child lose the hieratic aspect present in previous centuries depictions. They are animated with a new sense of movement. The faces are more realistic and the figures are less elongated than during the 13th century, the proportions are well executed. This leads us to think this work was made during the first decade of the 14th century. The smile appearing on both faces support further this datation.
This Virgin and Child is an exceptional example of 14th century Spanish art and it reached us in an equally exceptional condition.
Fons del Museu Frederic Marès/1, Catàleg d’escultura i pintura medievals, Ajuntament de Barcelona, 1991