Virgin and Child on the Crescent Moon

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Utrecht, Northern Netherlands
51.5 x 17.5 x 9.5 cm

Middeleeuwse beelden uit Utrecht 1430-1530, Museum Catharijneconvent, Utrecht, Ludion, p. 181, no. 6

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The Virgin Mary is standing on the crescent moon. The Christ child is sitting on her right arm and he is holding a bird in his hands. The bird is a reference to his future and the suffering he will endure: according to a legend a bird would have picked out a thorn from his head while Christ was being crucified.

Mary is dressed in a heavy and richly draped cloak. She holds parts of her cloak under her arms. The cloak is fastened with two belts ending in a rosette. She is wearing a dress underneath her cloak. The dress has a decorative border around the neck. Her long wavy hair is draped around her shoulders. On her head she is wearing a crown decorated with flowers.
Depictions of Mary on the crescent moon were common in the 15th and 16th century. They are a reference to a passage in St. John (12:1) in which a woman is described dressed in the sun, with stars on her crown and the moon at her feet. She will give birth to a son that will be threatened by a dragon, but in the end evil will be conquered. Theologists interpreted this woman as Mary the mother of Christ. Sculptures like this one often had metal sunbeams at the back, or beams were painted in the wooden altar box in which the sculpture was installed. This sculpture has a flat back.


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