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Leyden, Niclas Gerhaert van, attr.

Niclas Gerhaert van Leyden zugeschr. Gotische Madonna mit Kind

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1430 Leiden/Netherlands – 1473 Wiener Neustadt/Austria

Gothic Madonna and Child
German, around 1460
carved lime wood, original polychrome mounting and gilding
37 in

The Dutch sculptor and architect Niclas Gerhaert van Leyden is among the most significant artists of the late Gothic period. He influenced several generations in the region of South Germany and Austria, and thanks to his realistic notion of sculpture that lent a spatial dimension to his works, he is considered to have had a defining impact on the style. Niclas Gerhaert van Leyden is responsible for many highly important sculptural artworks of the late Middle Ages (for example the monumental mausoleum of Emperor Friedrich III, located in St. Stephen’s Cathedral in the present day).

His figures captivate the imagination with their true-to-life appearance, their vividness, through innovative formal solutions and their special spatial effect owing to their expansive configuration. The seated Madonna with the Christ child on her lap is masterfully carved from a single block of wood. The reverse side is slightly concave. The Virgin Mary’s graceful face displays a sweet, expressive countenance with red lips and rosy cheeks. A gentle smile lifts the corners of her mouth. A white veil covers her long, wavy hair. With an even more succinct and individual facial expression and posture, we see the infant Jesus looking attentively to the side while holding a golden sphere (the globe as a symbol for the Lordship of Christ over the world) in his hand.

Here, expressive realism is combined with sculptural volume and deep hollows, underscored by the wellthought out composition of the drapery. What is tremendously modern for its time is how the close-fitting robes in the leg area of the Madonna figure emphasize the body’s shape instead of concealing it, as had been the norm up until this point. Thanks to the expressive realism, the group of figures comes across as very lifelike and present.