Virgin Mary with Child

Artist: Tilman Riemenschneider (approx. 1460-1531)

Würzburg, approx. 1495

Dimensions: 76,5 cm (h)

Material: lime wood

Inv. No. A 1156 Cl

Virgin Mary with Child is one of the most beautiful and exquisite figures in the early work of Würzburg-based sculptor Tilman Riemenschneider. The female figure in this unpainted wooden sculpture represents the Apocalypse-style Madonna, which was very popular in the late 15th century and is based on the Revelation of Saint John in the New Testament of the Bible (Apocalypse 12.1): “And there appeared a great sign in heaven: a woman clothed with the sun, with the moon under her feet, and upon her head a crown of twelve stars.”  Riemenschneider lets the folds of the draped figure flow over the crescent of the rising moon; on her head she wears a 12-pointed crown that references both the twelve stars mentioned in the Revelation and the holy city of Jerusalem with its twelve (symbolic) gates.

With her head slightly tilted and a serious expression, the Madonna is turned towards the boy who is captured in his childlike movement. She seems to simultaneously look into the child’s eyes and into the distance, thus indicating the history of suffering and salvation.

The figure’s front and sides, including the robe’s finely detailed and subtle folds and borders, are sculpted with the same attention to detail, resulting in a 180° aspect that is not divided into individual aspects but develops continuously in space.

Works of Art