This extremely rare Romanesque wood sculpture depicts the Virgin Mary’s role in important Christian doctrine. It belongs to a type known as Sedes Sapientiae (the Throne of Wisdom). The subject shows the Virgin Mary’s role as principal mediator between God and man in the Incarnation, the moment in which Christ became human. In this sculpture, Mary is seated frontally and hieratically on a throne. She becomes the throne to the Christ Child as he perches on her lap, symbolizing her role in giving birth not only to the human Jesus, but also to the divine Christ. Sculptural depictions of the Throne of Wisdom were abundant across Europe during the 12th and 13th centuries, especially in France.
This sculpture belongs to an elite group of the Throne of Wisdom type produced in the Auvergne region of central France during the second half of the 12th-century. The Auvergne Sedes Sapietiae are estimated to number only about 25 or 30 and are characterized by their softer sculptural qualities which form beautiful swirls and contours. All such sculptures are smaller than life-size which made them easily transportable. Evidence suggests that they were moved between altars or churches, and were carried in procession on town streets on Marian feast days.
Though damaged on its lower extremities, the upper portions of the sculpture have survived well and the visual integrity of the sculpture remains intact. Virgin and Child in Majesty provides the museum’s medieval collection with an exquisite example of the French Romanesque wood sculpture genre and the Throne of Wisdom subject matter, both of which are highly sought after in medieval artwork. Virgin and Child in Majesty (Sedes Sapientiae) will be featured in the newly reinstalled galleries set to open December 26, 2012.n Member previews start December 12. Not a member? Join today.