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Label Text
This Ethiopian Orthodox icon is influenced by the art of the European Renaissance and features the Virgin Mary nursing the infant Christ on the central panel. The figures of the twelve Apostles are depicted in the opposing side panels, dating the triptych to the middle or second half of the 15th century.
Early Christians did not place such emphasis on the Virgin Mary until comparatively later in their history, and Mary only gradually came to be seen as the exalted intercessor between humans and God beginning in the 4th and 5th centuries. Placing a crown on her head is an artistic expression of the belief in her coronation by Christ after her ascension to heaven, thereby relating it to the Assumption of Mary. However, such imagery did not become widespread until the 12th century onwards. The form of the Virgin wearing a crown only began to surface in Ethiopian art after its introduction in the 15th century--another thematic testament to its 15th century date. Images of her coronation appear later, in the early 16th century.
Picturing the Virgin Mary with a crown also reflects the concerns and discussions of the day, which had shifted from the origins of Mary--particularly her purity and her timelessness--to her victory over death as she took her place by Christ's side. She is thus seen as the only human exempted from the general law of death, and a devotional icon for worshippers seeking closeness to God through her.
Triptych painting on wood depicintg, on the central panel, Madonna with a crown in a red dress with a blue cloak, flanked by two angels with varicolored wings. Each of the side panels has 3 rows of 2 disciples with differentiated hair. The back of the closed panel shows hand knife marks and gesso.
Joseph and Patricia Brumit, Sun City West, 1968 to 2004
Published References
Chojnacki, Stanislaw. 1983. Major Themes in Ethiopian Painting: Indigenous Developments, The Influence of Foreign Models and their Adaptation from the 13th to the 19th Century. Wiesbaden: Steiner (Series: √Ąthiopistische Forschungen; -- Bd. 10), no. 156.
Credit Line
Gift of Joseph and Patricia Brumit
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National Museum of African Art Collection
Mid- to late 15th century
Object number
Ethiopian Orthodox
mother and child
Wood, paint
H x W x D: 28.5 x 41.5 x 2 cm (11 1/4 x 16 5/16 x 13/16 in.)
National Museum of African Art