Female Saint

French


Female Saint, 15th century

  • On View

Limestone with traces of polychrome and gilding

Dimensions: 36 × 12 × 10 1/4 in. (91.4 × 30.5 × 26 cm)

Museum purchase with funds from family and friends in memory of Katherine & Raymond J. Kelly, Jr., 2000.7

Though she is called “female saint,” many clues indicate that this figure was meant to depict the Virgin Mary. The traces of red and blue paint on her garments (colors associated with the Virgin), along with the costly gold leaf applied to her hair would only have been used on the highly venerated figure of Mary. Additionally, she holds a book in her left hand, with her head bowed and eyes cast upward. This is a pose commonly used to depict the Annunciation, wherein the Virgin responds to the Archangel Gabriel while in the midst of reading the book of Isaiah. Normally, her right hand is shown raised in a gesture of surprise, but here she holds a reliquary box in the shape of a house instead. This discrepancy led to the thought that this is a figure of Saint Barbara, whose attribute is a building. However, closer examination revealed that this hand and what it holds are actually a later restoration.

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