Reliquary statue of the Maria Lactans

Characterised by an extraordinary expressive force and hypnotic drapery scheme, the present Madonna Lactans is a rare example from an exceedingly important group of sculptures carved in Verona around the year 1200. The few surviving works from the group reflect the ambiguity of both the date and place of their production: they combine formal Romanesque influences that had been current in Italy for some time with the dazzling drapery and monumentality of Byzantine art and a confronting naturalism that would prove to be popular in the piety in and north of the nearby Alps. That the present model played some part in the itinerant nature of the style is emphasised by the dispersal of five further versions. The statue has been in two of the foremost private collections of medieval art of the nineteenth and twentieth centuries: those of Count Stroganoff (1829–1910) in Rome and Adolphe Stoclet (1871–1949) in Brussels. The latter’s descendants loaned the Madonna Lactans to the Cleveland Museum of Art, where it was on view for much of the 1980s. All in all it is not surprising that the statue has appeared in no less than twenty-two scholarly publications.
Gallery (2 images) Italian, Verona, early 13th century
Reliquary statue of the Maria Lactans
Verona marble, with remnants of polychromy
73 by 45.5 by 35 cm. Sold to the Government of Flanders – on loan to Museum M, Leuven.