Sedes SapientiaeEnthroned Virgin and Child, Northern France, c. 1300
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Sedes Sapientiae
Enthroned Virgin and Child

Sedes Sapientiae
Enthroned Virgin and Child

Oak, with traces of original polychrome
Northern France, c. 1300

Dimensions

Height
94 cm; 3 ft. 1 in.
Width
31 cm; 1 ft. ⅕ in.
Depth
27 cm; 10⅔ in.

Provenance

Private collection, France

This beautiful work belongs to a group of early representations of the Virgin and Child known as the Enthroned Virgin and Child or Sedes Sapientiae (the ‘Seat of Wisdom’ or ‘Throne of Wisdom’). The Latin phrase likens the Mother of God in majesty to the Throne of Solomon, the Prophet King, referring to her exalted status as a vessel of the Incarnation carrying the Holy Child. The subject embodies a complex and core Christian doctrine of the Virgin's role in the Incarnation (the moment in which Christ became flesh) and ultimately in the redemption of humankind. The Incarnation gave Mary a unique position as principal mediator between heaven and earth, and between God and humankind. The association of the Blessed Virgin with glory and teaching in this tradition was popularised in Catholic imagery from the mid 11th century.  

Mary sits, enthroned, in a strict frontal upright position, the Christ Child placed on her left knee sitting with the same formal posture, facing the viewer, his right hand raised in a blessing movement. As she is  seated on a throne, she in turn becomes the throne to the Christ Child, thus symbolising her role in giving birth not only to the human Jesus, but also to the divine Christ. 

The head of the Virgin is oblong with a high forehead, an angular nose and small lips, her gaze downwards. Both Mother and Child wear flat crowns, that of the Virgin carved with decorations, her hair tucked beneath, a voluminous veil framing her face falling to rest on her shoulders. Her pleated dress falls to rest just above the ground, the front section of one shoe visible. V-shaped folds of fabric drape between the knees of the Christ Child, his bare feet emerging from beneath his tunic.

Carved in Nothern France at the turn of the 14th centuy and in original condition, this object is a fine example of the craftsmanship of the region and period.