Seated on a throne bench with arcades supported by four columns, Mary is dressed in a dress and a long tunic, with a hood covering her head, full sleeves resting on her forearms; networks of flexible, tiered and regular chain-like folds. She presents the Child seated before her, her left hand resting on the Child's left leg and the other holding him by the right side. He is holding a book in his left hand, resting on his knee.
Height: 75 cm
(worm holes, head of the Child redone)
Provenance: Private collection in Paris.
The buyer will be given an examination report from the art object laboratory, Gilles Perrault, dated 21 May 1990, including tomographic observations. Also included in the file is a description made by Bernard Blondel and Philippe Carlier when this Virgin was purchased in October 1990, as well as a carbon 14 test report n°1021-OA-750Z dated November 8, 2021, made by the CIRAM laboratory.
The theological model from the Council of Ephesus in 431 is well established at the beginning of the 10th century: Mary, seated on a throne, presents her Son in front of her and becomes herself the seat of Christ, the throne of Wisdom, Sédes
Sapientae. Mary is the mother of the double human and divine nature of Christ. She is the perfect and intimate mediator between man and God, leading to her Son who comes to save man from his compromise with evil. The rigorously frontal attitude of the Virgin, but also her serious, solemn, almost hieratic expression, her eyes with a fixed gaze contemplating the Beyond, characterize this iconographic theme developed in particular in the Virgins of Majesty.
The Auvergne reliquary statues which date back to the 10th and 11th centuries are gradually being transformed. The faith in the Assumption that Mary ascended to heaven with her body did not allow for the multiplication of the remains of her body. The veneration which was attached to the aspect of protection evolves and the statues losing their reliquary function, the faithful will pray in front of them to enter into the mystery of mediation that the Virgin represents. This explains why the head can be sculpted separately. Indeed, if the cavities disappear, relics of other saints could simply be placed in the joint of the head with the body, thus offering the faithful the mediation of the suffrages of other blessed.
Concerning the stylistic data of this sculpture, the study of the garment, the folds of the drapery, the position of the hands, allow us to consider a workshop that would have also sculpted the Virgin preserved in the church of Moussage, Notre-Dame de Claviers. According to tradition, this Virgin would have been offered by the lord Raoul de Scorailles before leaving for the first Crusade in the last years of the 11th century; he would have offered two others, one to Scorailles and the other to Saint-Christophe. There is a series of works from the same workshop probably located near Clermont. We can put in parallel a certain number of these Virgins to understand these similarities resulting undoubtedly from a very close chisel. The main work is perhaps the Virgin from the Pierpont-Morgan collection kept by the Metropolitan Museum of Art (inv 16.32.194a, b); the Virgin in Majesty said to come from Montvianeix, also in the Metropolitan Museum of Art, The Cloisters Collection (inv 67.153); the Virgin in Majesty called Notre-Dame d'Usson (Puy-de Dôme), kept in the Museum of Art
Roger Quilliot in Clermont-Ferrand, (inv 2002.1.1); the Virgin in Majesty of the Church of Aubusson d'Auvergne (Puy-de Dôme) and the Virgin in Majesty of Heume-l'Eglise (Puy-de Dôme).
Although of different sizes, probably to adapt to the place where they were intended, but also with varying finesse in the realization of the hair, the composition seems very similar, especially in the play of the right and left hands placed on the knee and torso of the Child, the length of the hands and fingers, the register of the drapery with the chain-like folds. The construction method and the polychromy technique are practically identical, which shows a common know-how.
Louis Réau, L'iconographie de l'art chrétien, iconographie de la Bible II, tome 2, Paris, 1957
Hélène Leroy and Francis Debaisieux, Vierges romanes, portraits croisés, Beaumont, 2009
Marie-Blanche Potte, Dominique Faunières, Agnès Blossier and Lucretia Kargère, Etudes menées sur les sculptures d'Auvergne en bois polychromé, Medievalista Nº 26, July-December 2019
Emile Male, Vierges Romanes d'Auvergne, le Point n° XXV, Lanzac, June 1943
Jean-René Gaborit and Dominique Faunières, Une Vierge en majesté, Solo collection, Paris, 2009