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The Virgin Mary, seated, holds a child on her lap

The Virgin Mary sits, wearing long draped robes. She has a long hood, a long, wide nose, and a small mouth. On her lap she holds a seated figure of a robed child Jesus. The child’s features are worn; the top half of his face and most of his arms are missing. There are also four holes in the child’s chest. The surface of the woman’s chest and shoulders are carved in a way that suggests rays radiating out from around the child’s head. A brooch-like object at the woman’s neck has several holes in it.

Gallery Text

With her large body and frontal pose, the Virgin here functions as a throne for Christ, a visual expression of her status as the Mother of God and source of wisdom. While the symmetry and rigid composition of the work are characteristic of Romanesque sculpture, these qualities are disrupted by the soft lines of falling drapery and the off-center stance of the Christ child. Relatively lightweight, this sculpture was probably a cult statue carried in religious processions, touched, and even kissed, by worshippers. It may have held relics embedded in its body, which would have endowed it with a sacred presence. Remains of pigment and holes at both figures’ necks indicate that the sculpture was once painted and ornamented with precious metal or gems.

Identification and Creation

Object Number
Unidentified Artist
Virgin and Child in Majesty (Seat of Divine Wisdom)
Other Titles
Alternate Title: Madonna and Child Enthroned
Work Type
Persistent Link


Level 2, Room 2440, Medieval Art, Medieval Art
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Physical Descriptions

Polychromed wood
69.2 x 30.2 x 22.2 cm (27 1/4 x 11 7/8 x 8 3/4 in.)


Recorded Ownership History
[Durlacher Brothers, New York, NY], sold; to Edward Forbes for Fogg Art Museum, 1937.

Acquisition and Rights

Credit Line
Harvard Art Museums/Fogg Museum, Friends of the Fogg Art Museum Fund
Accession Year
Object Number
European and American Art

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Publication History

  • [Reproduction Only], Magazine of Art, (November 1937)., p. 671, detail of head repr.
  • Evelyn Stevenson, "An Afternoon at the Fogg", Cambridge Chronicle (October 5, 1972)
  • Ilene H. Forsyth, The Throne of Wisdom: Wood Sculptures of the Madonna in Romanesque France, Princeton University Press (Princeton, NJ, 1972), pp. 148-150; pp. 197-8 no. 102; figs. 178-81
  • Jane Hayward and Walter Cahn, Radiance and Reflection: Medieval Art from the Raymond Pitcairn Collection, exh. cat., The Metropolitan Museum of Art (New York, NY, 1982), p. 114, no. 41

Exhibition History

  • 32Q: 2440 Medieval, Harvard Art Museums, Cambridge, 11/16/2014 - 01/01/2050

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Verification Level

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