Mother and Child Stucco Sculpture
CIRCA: 12th–13th Century A.D.
DIMENSIONS: Height: 31cm
A very rare stucco sculpture representing a seated cross-legged figure, hands on knees, holding a child under her right arm. The woman is dressed in an elbow-length robe adorned with a necklace pendant in the shape of a bird with its wings unfurled. Wearing a diadem of rosettes on a fringe of curly hair, whose black locks fall on her shoulders. Her face is round, with a small mouth, straight nose; her arched eyebrows meet at the bridge of the nose. Some black, red and blue pigment is still visible.
It is known from excavations and textual evidence that figures in the round or with a flattened back were used to decorated palaces; few, however, have survived. This sculpture is also interesting for the study of medieval Islamic costume. The figure is a testimony to the lasting artistic and cultural influence of the Seljuq dynasty, a vast though relatively short-lived empire unified Persian, Islamic, and Central Asian–Turkic elements.
Pierre-Nicolas Beauvallet was a draftsman and printmaker, as well as a sculptor. After the French Revolution he restored Medieval and Renaissance sculptures for the Musée National des Monuments Français, including the famous Fontaine de Diane. This statuette is the exact contemporary of one of his most celebrated works, but the exact reason for the terrecotta statue is unknown. This piece is made of beige clay covered with a brown slip. It captures Sappho just as she has stopped playing the lyre that she is holding. Her expression and appearance illustrate her inner turmoil as she has lost her love Phaon. Her hair is crowned with laurels and her elegant robe cascades down in folds across her body. Her physique is shown off by the clinging drapery, small breasted and robust hips. The fall of the folds reflect the Farnese “Flora”, and presents a refinded Neoclassicism.
H: 16 5/16 x W: 7 1/2 x D: 8 3/8 in. (41.4 x 19.1 x 21.3 cm)