This lovely Madonna and child was carved in the midlands of England back in medieval times.
According to the experts at the British Museum, who acquired the statue, it was carved in the 1350’s. The stone was quarried nearby in Staffordshire or possibly Derbyshire.
We are lucky to have the Madonna. Many like her were destroyed as idolatrous following injunctions issued by Henry VIII and then Edward VI during the Reformation.
To create a Madonna like this would require great skill and sensitivity.
Carving is a difficult thing to do. It is fundamentally different from 2 dimensional drawing. One extra dimension adds infinitely more possibilities. The stone can be cut in any direction. Finding the right direction is tricky.
Another problem faced when carving (rather than modelling clay) is that the the artist can only remove material. No addition is possible. As he/she carves they must not to remove what will be needed later!
These restrictions demand huge imaginative insight.
Some people possess a natural capacity to see into the block. They form a picture within it. Many others would struggle even to envisage such complexity in a lump of rock.
“An artist draws with his brain and not his hand.”
Surely he was referring equally to carving, He himself drew astoundingly fluently in both 2 and 3 dimensions. His Pietà in St. Peter’s Basilica, below carved in marble is an incredible example of his mastery of the medium.
You don’t need to go all the way to Rome to see the little medieval Virgin and Child. It’s one of a huge number of fantastic carved pieces that the British Museum holds. Next time you visit the museum make sure you find your way to see the lovely carving in room 40. Its small pure and full of love.