Virgin and Child Enthroned

Unknownlate 12th c. or early 13th c.

The National Museum in Warsaw

The National Museum in Warsaw

This diminutive figurine of the Virgin and Child Enthroned dates back to the late 12th or early 13th century, and is the oldest surviving cult sculpture in Poland. Though it resided in a Cistercian Abbey located in Ołobok in the Greater Poland region, it was most likely created in France or southern Germany. The placement of the figurine amongst sculpted architectural elements is meant to underscore the difference between sculptures that served a decorative function, and those that were intended to be stand-alone pieces for worship. In the period between the 8th and 12th centuries, we notice the sphere of sculpture breaking free from the domain of architecture. This is when the first simple cult figurines began to appear, among which the Virgin and Child motif was very common. In this example, the Virgin is depicted in a rigid frontal pose sitting on a throne with the Child in her lap. Medieval theology saw a correlation between the figure of the Virgin Mary and the throne of King Solomon. Mary herself becomes the throne of Jesus Christ, who is the incarnation of the Wisdom of God. This is why this type of image is referred to as the Seat of Wisdom, or Sedes Sapientiae in Latin.

This particular sculpture may have served as an object of private worship for the abbey’s prioress or one of it’s wealthier sisters. On the rear, we can see an opening which may have held a religious relic or communion wafers.

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  • Title: Virgin and Child Enthroned
  • Creator: Unknown
  • Date: late 12th c. or early 13th c.
  • Location Created: France or Southern Germany
  • Provenance: From the Cistercian Abbey in Ołobok
  • Physical Dimensions: w13 x h40 x d13.5 cm
  • Inv. no.: Śr.1 NMW
  • Type: Wooden Sculpture
  • External Link: Digital National Museum in Warsaw
  • Medium: limewood with traces of paint