Virgin with Child in Majesty

Particolare Maestà Mariana

“Maternal love: Mary, support of the divine and human nature of Jesus”

  • chiselled Vicenza stone
  • 12th to 13th century
  • attributed to Benedetto Antelami

 

The fame of this work is due to the elasticity that Benedetto Antelami confers to the whole representation, making it more natural and realistic.

A “Maestà” represents a character on a throne. In this masterpiece Mary, the mother of Jesus sits on the throne, holding the Child Jesus. For the first time these holy figures are portrayed with great humanity, which appears side by side with the divine nature of the characters.

Both the Mother and the Son are wearing priestly clothes, and the crown of the Virgin is decorated with lilies, symbols of her purity.

Unfortunately time has damaged the statue. Mary lost one of her hands, and Jesus is missing the right side of his face.

The statue was originally positioned on the main altar of the Cathedral, until the mid-1500s, when it was placed in a niche of the bell tower. After being restored in 1985, it was put in the Diocesan Museum when it opened in 1999.

The sculpture is unanimously attributed to Benedetto Antelami, despite the lack of documentary evidence, as it is very similar in style and structure to other works by  the same artist, for example the sculptures representing Salomon and the Queen of Saba preserved at the Diocesan Museum of Parma.

IN-DEPTH BOX

Benedetto Antelami was a sculptor and architect, the first great interpreter of the Gothic style in Italy. He worked in Lombardy, Liguria and Emilia from the second half of the 12th century until the 1230s. We know he was born around 1150, probably in the Intelvi Valley.
It is probable that Antelami belonged to the so-called Lombard School, a prestigious regional school of the 12th century.

Benedetto arrived in Parma in 1175, where he sculpted the Deposition in the Parma Cathedral, which is considered his masterpiece. This work reveals a clear influence of models from the Ile de France, which seems to indicate a previous stay of the artist in France.

Other works by Antelami are the Episcopal Pulpit in the Parma Cathedral and the series of Seasons and Months. In later years he worked as an architect at the Fidenza Cathedral and on the Baptistery of Parma. A recent discovery is the Fontevivo Madonna in Fontevivo Abbey, near Parma, as well as the sculpture group of Madonna and Child Jesus, made of polychronic stone, datable around 1190. Benedetto Antelami died around 1230.