The subject of this rare example of Late Gothic church sculpture can be identified as the Virgin of the Apocalypse, whose imagery—the aureole of the sun, along with the twelve stars in her crown, and the crescent moon beneath her—is derived from the book of Revelation (12:1–5): “And there appeared a great wonder in heaven, a woman clothed with the sun, and the moon under her feet, and upon her head was a crown of twelve stars. . . . And she brought forth a man-child, who was to rule all nations. . . .” The holes in the back of the sculpture indicate where a burst of sunrays was formerly attached. The figure of the Virgin was executed in repoussé (shaped by hammering from the reverse side). Her hair, the moon, and other details of the sculpture are gilded. The identity of the exceptionally skilled goldsmith, who may have worked from another artist’s model, is unknown.
The plinth bears the heraldic shield of Wilhelm von Reichenau, bishop of Eichstätt, a small city in southern Germany, who gave this silver Virgin to the Eichstätt cathedral. Eichstätt’s popular saints—including Saint Willibald, first bishop of Eichstätt are included—on the base of the statue.
The Virgin and Child was probably removed and sold following the secularization of the Diocese of Eichstätt at the beginning of the nineteenth century. It was later in the collection of Mayer Carl von Rothschild in Frankfurt and remained in private hands until its recent acquisition by the Kimbell.