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Gallery Text

Known as a “Schöne Madonna” (Beautiful Madonna), this figure was probably kept in a parish church; and as the centerpiece of an altar or shrine, it would have been an object of local devotion. The pedestal, a sculptural component that rarely survives, contains a glass-covered hole that may once have held a relic or may have been a container for offerings from the devout. Mary’s delicate features, the sway of her body, and the Christ child grasping her cloak emphasize her humanity, encouraging the intimate, personal prayers of the viewer. As is common in medieval art, the work presents multiple Christian ideas simultaneously: the Virgin is a gentle, caring mother, who also wears a crown marking her as the Queen of Heaven. Dressed in gold, she is the woman “clothed in the sun, with the moon under her feet,” described in the book of Revelation. The figure of Adam, asleep below the crescent moon, refers to the fall of mankind and his redemption by Christ.

Identification and Creation
Object Number
Unidentified Artist
The Virgin and Child
Work Type
c. 1430
Creation Place: Europe, Austria, Tyrol
Level 2, Room 2500, European Art, 13th–16th century, Art and Image in Europe
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Physical Descriptions
Polychromed and gilded wood
155 x 48 x 31 cm (61 x 18 7/8 x 12 3/16 in.)
[A.S. Drey, Munich, Germany (by 1914-?) ]. Walter von Pannwitz collection, Munich and Berlin, Germany (by 1925-?), sold; [to Rosenberg & Stiebel, New York, NY (?-1963), sold]; to Busch-Reisinger Museum, 1963.

In the 1914 “Festschrift des Münchner Altertums-Vereins zur Erinnerung an das 50 Jähr. Jubiläum” the work is listed as being in the collection of A.S. Drey (fig. 22, p. 41). Later the work is included in the 1925-1926 von Pannwitz collection catalogue (vol. II, no. 115, M.J. Friedländer and Otto von Falke, “Die Kunstsammlung von Pannwitz,” 1925-1926).
Acquisition and Rights
Credit Line
Harvard Art Museums/Busch-Reisinger Museum, Antonia Paepcke DuBrul Fund
Accession Year
Object Number
European and American Art
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possibly poplar
Publication History

Franz Wolter, Bayerische Plastik des XV. und XVI. Jahrhunderts: Beitrag zur Forschung und Geschichte, Festschrift des Münchner Altertums-Vereins zur Erinnerung an das 50 Jährige Jubiläum (Munich, Germany, 1914), pp. 29-98, pp. 47-48, repr. p. 41 as fig. 22

Max J. Friedlander and Otto von Falke, Die Kunstsammlung von Pannwitz, Verlaganstalt F. Bruckmann A.-G. (Munich, Germany, 1925-26), no. 155 p. 12, repr. as pl. 115

Theodor Müller, Mittelalterliche Plastik Tirols, Deutscher Verein für Kunstwissenschaft (1935), pp. 57-58, 132 (note. 12) , repr. as pl. 131

"Accessions of American and Canadian Museums", Art Quarterly (Summer 1963), Vol. 26, No. 2, 249-277, p. 250, repr. p. 252

Charles L. Kuhn, German and Netherlandish Sculpture, 1280-1800, the Harvard Collections, Harvard University Press (Cambridge, MA, 1965), p. 12, cat. no. 9 pp. 52-54, rep. as frontispiece and pl.X

Anneliese Harding, German Sculpture in New England Museums, Goethe Institute (Boston, MA, 1972), pp. 10, 12, 13, repr. p. 29 as fig. 23

Dieter Grossmann, "Der Meister von Seeon", Marburger Jahrbuch für Kunstwissenschaft (Marburg, Germany, 1974), vol.19, p. 121, repr. p. 111 as fig. 51

Theodor Müller, Gotische Skulptur in Tirol, Tyrolia-Verlag (Vienna, Austria, 1976), p. 430, repr. as fig. 51

Charles Werner Haxthausen, "The Busch-Reisinger Museum, Harvard: the Germanic Tradition", Apollo (May 1978), vol. 107, no. 195, pp. 403-413, p. 411, repr. p. 413 as fig. 10

Charles Werner Haxthausen, The Busch-Reisinger Museum, Harvard University, Abbeville Press (New York, NY, 1980), pp. 13, 104, repr. pp. 104-105 and back cover

Kristin A. Mortimer, Harvard University Art Museums: A Guide to the Collections, Harvard University Art Museums/Abbeville Press (Cambridge, MA; New York, NY, 1985), no. 347, p. 294, repr.

Anita F. Moskowitz, Gothic Sculpture in America, I: The New England Museums, ed. Dorothy W. Gillerman, Garland Publishing, Inc. (New York, 1989), no. 153 pp. 192-193, repr.

James Cuno, Harvard's Art Museums: 100 Years of Collecting, Harvard University Art Museums/Harry N. Abrams, Inc. (Cambridge, MA, 1996), pp. 326-327, repr. color

Melissa Katz and Robert A. Orsi, Divine mirrors : the Virgin Mary in the visual arts, ed. Melissa Katz, Oxford University Press (UK) (Oxford, England and New York, NY, 2001), p. 80, repr. p 82 as fig. 78

Peter Nisbet and Joseph Koerner, The Busch-Reisinger Museum, Harvard University Art Museums, ed. Peter Nisbet, Harvard University Art Museums and Scala Publishers Ltd. (Cambridge, MA and London, England, 2007), p. 233

Exhibition History

Ancient to Modern, Harvard Art Museums, Cambridge, 01/31/2012 - 06/01/2013

32Q: 2500 Renaissance, Harvard Art Museums, Cambridge, 11/01/2014

Subjects and Contexts

Google Art Project

This record has been reviewed by the curatorial staff but may be incomplete. Our records are frequently revised and enhanced. For more information please contact the Division of European and American Art at am_europeanamerican@harvard.edu