The first stone sculptures of the Virgin Mary standing with the Child in her arms appeared at the end of the 12th century, designed for the mullions of the most important French Gothic cathedrals. The prototype for these figures was the image of the western façade of Notre-Dame in Paris that has now disappeared, a model that would be copied by other European schools of the time.
In this work the Virgin is no longer the Romanesque throne of Christ's majesty, and becomes a mother communicating with her son. She wears the usual attire of the French court in the 13th century; although already old-fashioned at the time, it is more sober and plastic than the attire typical of the period in which the work was created. This sculpture is of a later date, the mid-14th century, as revealed by the arrangement of Mary's mantle, gathered together at both sides of her waist to create V-shaped folds at the front. The position of the figure's right foot produces the curvature of her body; in her right hand she is holding a bunch of grapes, the symbol of the Eucharistic wine, towards which the Child extends his right hand to signal his acceptance of the sacrifice, while in his left hand he holds the orb. The refinement, the way in which the pleats are rendered and the realism of the Virgin's face relate this work to the sculpture produced in the French region of Burgundy. It still preserves some of its polychrome painting and the fact that the backs of the figures were also sculpted suggests it was not placed against a mullion but was free-standing inside a church. [A.S.L.]
Julia Ara Gil. “Imágenes Góticas de la Virgen de procedencia francesa en el Museo de Bellas Artes de Bilbao” en Urtekaria 1990: asterlanak, albistak = anuario 1990: estudios, crónicas. Bilbao : Museo de Bellas Artes de Bilbao = Bilboko Arte Ederren Museoa, 1991, pp. 7-21.
Ana Sánchez- Lassa de los Santos. Museo de Bellas Artes de Bilbao : guía. Bilbao : Museo de Bellas Artes de Bilbao = Bilboko Arte Ederren Museoa, 2011 (1ª ed. 2006; ed. inglés; ed. francés; ed. euskera), p. 14, n.º 3, ad vocem.