Unknownca. 1130

Cincinnati Art Museum

Cincinnati Art Museum

This wood sculpture of the seated Virgin Mary, which once included the Christ Child on her lap, is thought to have been made in Toulouse in southern France. It is a type known as the "sedes sapientiae" (Latin for “Throne of Wisdom”), sometimes also called the Maiestas, or Madonna in Majesty. The full three-dimensionality of these sculptures made the Virgin and Child seem more human and physically accessible. At the same time, however, the figures’ regal bearing and rigid, frontal poses —a characteristic of the Romanesque style—suggested their holy nature. These sculptures were popularly considered substitutes for the beings represented, and veneration of them permitted people to outwardly express their reverence for the Virgin and adoration of the Child.

The flattened, rhythmic folds of the Virgin’s cascading garment make the sculpture a particularly elegant illustration of the twelfth-century Throne of Wisdom type. Remaining traces of gold ornamentation and bright blue and red pigment convey the richness of the original decoration.

Many of the remaining portable statues are in rough condition, a result of their frequent relocation within the church and of being borne in processions through the city streets. Elements such as the Virgin’s arms and the figure of Christ, carved from separate pieces of wood and attached by dowels, often became separated from the main body. A cavity at the back of this sculpture probably did not house a reliquary, as has often been postulated, but rather was intended to lessen the weight of the piece and reduce the possibility of cracks developing in the wood.

Show lessRead more


  • Title: Virgin
  • Creator: Unknown
  • Date Created: ca. 1130
  • Location: France
  • Location Created: Toulouse, France
  • Physical Dimensions: 34 x 11 1/8 x 13 3/8 in. (86.4 x 28.3 x 34 cm)
  • Credit Line: John J. Emery Fund
  • Accession Number: 1946.8
  • Type: Sculpture
  • Medium: Wood with polychromy