Virgin and Child, Paris, France, about 1260-80. Ivory with 19th-century silver crown
One of the most important surviving medieval ivories, this statue was produced in Paris for the treasury of the Abbey Church of Saint-Denis, the birthplace of Gothic architecture and burial site of French kings. With her right knee bent to support the Christ Child, the Virgin’s pose reflects the shape of the elephant tusk from which it was carved. Originally this elegant sculpture was the centerpiece of a group including two standing angels and a smaller flying one. In 1811 following the French Revolution, this confiscated religious treasure was sold, and the Virgin’s original gold-and-jeweled crown and emerald brooch were lost.