Library Categories

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1. Flemish oak carving of the Virgin & Child with St Thomas, c.1600
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2. Pair of 17C Flemish oak panels of The Annunciation.
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3. Early 16C Northern French oak figure of the Virgin & Child.
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4. 15C English Gothic oak panel of The Coronation of the Virgin.
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5. Early 16C Flemish walnut figure of the Mourning Virgin.
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6. 15C pine Catalan Virgin & Child.
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7. Late 15C German oak figure.
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8. 16C French stone carving of The Education of the Virgin.
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9. Late 16C oak panel of the Virgin & Child, with a Christian soul. Netherlands.

The Library

Religious Subjects > Virgin

1. The Virgin and Child with St Thomas

After the Virgin died her body was borne up to heaven, an event that St Thomas did not witness and did not at first believe.  As he prayed to her for a sign that she had ascended, she threw down her girdle to him.  

In this unusual representation of the subject the Virgin holds the Child against her as he stands on clouds. She holds the edge of the girdle with her left hand while St Thomas holds it against his chest.  The Child would not have been present at this scene but his presence adds a gentle touch to the carving.

2. The Annunciation

At the moment the Angel Gabriel announced to the Virgin Mary that she would conceive and bear a son whom she would call Jesus, the Incarnation of Christ is presumed to have taken place.  According to the Christian calendar this was March 25th, known in England as Lady Day, nine months before the Nativity.  As St Bernard had declared that the event took place in spring, early artists included a flower in their representation of the subject; this later came to be depicted as a lily, a symbol of Mary’s purity.  The Virgin is usually shown with a book, often, as here, on a lectern, in which she is reading Isaiah’s prophecy that a young woman is with child and will bear a son.

The dove of the Holy Spirit is the third component in this scene, emitting rays of light from God, suggesting the moment of conception.  It must have been carved separately in this case, either on a panel or just as a free-standing bird, and would have been placed above and between the two panels.

Nativity panels are shown separately in the Library.

3. The Virgin & Child

The Virgin Mary holding the Christ Child, usually on her right arm, is one of the most usual devotional images.  In the earliest examples the Child is held looking outwards towards the viewer as a separate entity, but later on the pose becomes more natural and there is an affectionate interplay between the mother and her child.

4. The Coronation of the Virgin


On this 15th-century English oak panel Christ has just crowned his mother as Queen of Heaven in the presence of God the Father and the dove, symbol of the Holy Ghost.  Christ and God the Father are both seated on thrones with simple linenfold decoration and the wall behind them is scratch carved in a typical medieval diaper pattern.  A Gothic canopy hangs above the figures, jutting out in a manner reminiscent of medieval Nottingham alabaster panels.

5. The Mourning Virgin, Mater Dolorosa


Often from a Crucifixion tableau where she is paired with St John, or simply standing alone, the mourning Virgin stares sorrowfully down.  Here, her hands  are clasped together in anguish, holding a piece of cloth, probably from her son’s clothing.

6. Sedes Sapientiae

The Virgin and Child are seated on a throne of wisdom in the ‘Etruscan’ pose where there is no interaction between the two figures, who both stare out at the world or beyond.  This type was often made in the medieval period in the Catalan/Southern French area in a wide variety of woods such as poplar, pine, walnut, willow, chestnut, alder, lime, yew and ash and often garishly painted.

7. The Mourning Virgin, Mater Dolorosa

Late 15th-century German oak figure with remains of early polychromy.

8. The Education of the Virgin.

Early 16th-century  limestone carving of The Education of the Virgin, otherwise known as St Anne teaching the Virgin to read - with early polychrome decoration.  Eastern France.

9.  The Virgin & Child.

The Virgin stands within a deeply carved niche, under a shell-like dome reminiscent of a halo.  She holds the Christ Child on her right arm and an apple in her left hand.  Above her, a man holding palms sits with his legs between some strapwork, his feet resting on a pair of eagles.  The palms and the eagles indicate a Christian soul being borne up into heaven, victorious over death.  Presumably he has prayed to the Virgin to earn his place there,