Lindenwood, polychromed and gilded
Overall: 89.1 x 78.7 x 32.4 cm (35 1/16 x 31 x 12 3/4 in.)
Purchase from the J. H. Wade Fund 1938.294
This sculpture sensitively depicts the Virgin cradling the body of Christ. This devotional image was likely placed near the altar in a German chapel. Imagine standing in a small, quiet chapel looking up at these lifelike figures with flickering candles casting dappled light onto their surface.
Depicting the Virgin cradling Christ’s dead body, works like this one were known in German as vesperbilds, owing to their incorporation into the liturgy of the evening prayer (vespers) on Good Friday. The word pietà—from the Latin pietas, meaning "piety" or "compassion"—was also used to describe such works. Like other devotional image types that emerged in southern Germany in the later medieval period, vesperbilds encouraged viewers to contemplate Christ’s suffering and empathize with the Virgin’s sorrows more directly and emotively than ever before. This anonymous German artist is named after one of his most important works, the high altar of the church of Rabenden in the Chiemgau, the foothills of the Alps. The sculpture was likely placed in a secondary chapel in a Bavarian church.
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