A Romanesque marble relief of the Virgin of the Sign
Lot 210W
A Romanesque marble relief of the Virgin and Child
Sold for £39,650 (US$ 66,644) inc. premium
Auction Details
Lot Details
A Romanesque marble relief of the Virgin and Child
North-West Europe, circa 11th Century A.D.
Depicting the Virgin Blachernisse 'of the sign', in typical pose, facing frontally, with raised hands, wearing a long tunic and the veil, the image of the Child Jesus depicted within a circle upon her breast, standing inside a shell-headed niche with an encircled cross at the top and a bird resting on one side, 11½in x 23¼in (29cm x 59cm)


  • Provenance:
    French private collection since 2004.

    The icon of the Lady of the Sign (Isaiah VII, 14) depicts the Virgin Mary during the moment of the Annunciation, and the central encircled image of the Child Christ represents him at the moment of his conception in the womb. This relief is in the Byzantine style, and most likely originates from France.

    The same iconography of the Theotokos (Mother of God) can be found on a silver coin struck at Speyer, Germany, by the Holy Roman Emperor Henry III (1039-1056 A.D.), cf. B. Kluge, Deutsche Münzgeschichte von der späten Karolingerzeit bis zum Ende der Salier (Ca. 900 bis 1125), Sigmaringen, 1991, no.143; and B. Kluge, Numismatik des Mittelalters, Berlin/Vienna, 2007, no.303. the desing of this Western coin is similar to the iconography of the Virgin on a rare histamenon (gold coin) of the joint Empresses Zoe and Theodora (21 April-12 June 1042) and other Byzantine coins struck at about this time. Cf. D.R. Sear, Byzantine Coins, London, 2006, no. 1827.

    This relief is executed in the style espoused by the Eastern Orthodox Church and is a significant confirmation that Byzantine iconography was permeating the Roman Church in the west. The Umileini Virgin and Child in a late 12th Century illumination of the Song of Songs in the Bibiliotheque municipale at Lyon, (MS. 410, fol. 207v.) can be seen to support this. Cf. M. Vassilaki (ed.), Images of the Mother of God: Perception of the Theotokos in Byzantium, Farnham, 2005, pp.280 & 288.
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