Virgin and Child, c.1400
Chalk in its natural state, with traces of polychromy
Gift of Mrs. Felix M. Warburg and her children
Dimensions: Sight: 25 3/4 x 9 3/8 x 6 1/8 in. (65.41 x 23.81 x 15.56 cm)
Collections: Felix M. and Frieda Warburg, New York
Part of a very important gift to Vassar of a large portion of the collection of New York financier Felix M. Warburg, this splendid example of Late Gothic French chalk carving was thought, until 1945, to be a plaster cast, but then laboratory analysis determined it is an original carved sculpture in chalk of the ‘schöne Madonna’ type. Its workmanship is precise and the folds of the draperies fall in the gentle, rhythmic cascades distinctive of Late Gothic high style. Residual traces of orange pigment on the faces, of red and blue on the Madonna’s garments, and of gilding on her crown point to the certainty that the sculpture was once a brilliant example of French polychrome sculpture. The manner of the figures is courtly, yet the Child is portrayed as playful and beaming. Scholars are of the consensus that the work is the product of a Parisian workshop, and that the stone was quarried in the region around Rouen.