South west Germany, ca. 1370
Limewood, painted in polychrome
height 96 cm, width 40 cm, depth 17 cm
It had been standard practice since Early Christian times to represent the Mother of God seated on a throne, and only rarely were other saints venerated in this way. In this variation on the theme, which was widely diffused in German speaking countries during the C14, she is represented with the Christchild half seated, half standing and clothed (in contrast to his appearance naked in the C15). The bird he plays with in his hands has symbolic meaning: according to one of the apocryphal Gospels, Christ made a clay bird which he threw into the air and so brought to life - an analogy for the Redemption of the soul. Originally the Madonna, as Queen of Heaven, wore a crown over her veil and held a sceptre in her right hand. The figure is carved in very flat relief, measuring only 17 cm in depth. It was acquired in the Freiburg Breisgau region and is closely akin to a seated Madonna in Rottweil in the Black Forest, which in the C14 was a flourishing free city of Swabia. On the borders of the Upper Rhine region, Rottweil evolved a local style of sculpture with which this very early piece in the Museum's collection must clearly be associated.