Detail of an ivory of the Virgin and Child
Museum no. 4685-1858
The love of elegance for its own sake increasingly dominated European art at the beginning of the 14th century, a development which co-incided with an increasing emphasis on the human qualities of the Virgin Mary. This statuette depicts the Virgin as gentle and maternal, smiling down at her inquisitive son. In her right hand the Virgin holds a cylindrical object, the stem of a lily (now lost) which symbolised Mary's virginal state when her son was conceived by the Holy Spirit. The baby Jesus holds an apple in his hand, a symbol of the burden of the sins of mankind that Christ will bear.