Thursday 10 December 2015

Mary and Saint John

These two charming little painted and gilded limestone statues from the mid-15th century are part of the goods saved from the former Hospice of Saint Roch in Issoudun. The hospice is now a museum.

They represent Mary and John, and were certainly part of a larger calvary style composition accompanying Christ. Saint John is shown as a young man with long curly hair, holding his red cloak in pleats with his left hand as though he is holding a book. The impression of the shape of a book represents his gospel, invisible because it is not yet written. He rests his head delicately in the palm of his right hand in a sign of his suffering. The Virgin joins her hands in front of her body, fingers entwined, as she lowers her head slightly forward.

Mary (left) and Saint John (right).
The composition is ordered by the position of the arms rather than the thick and heavy pleats of the draperies. The left arm of Saint John describes a semi-circle from the right foot to the hair, accentuated by the elegant inclination of his head. With regard to Mary, her joined hands are pulled hard into her chest at the level of her heart, accentuating the strength of her internal feelings.

The general attitude of compassion of these two saints, their lowered eyes and inclined heads, enhanced by a delicate polychrome colour scheme radiates an impression of calm and gentleness.

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