The Virgin and Child on the Crescent Moon, c. 1500
Unknown (German, Franconia - late 15th-early 16th century)
133 cm high
National Gallery of Canada (no. 14751)
"And a great portent appeared in heaven, a woman clothed with the sun, with the moon under her feet, and on her head a crown of twelve stars." By tradition, the Woman described in the Book of Revelation came to be identified with the Virgin. This sculpture is not a literal rendering of the passage, which describes her as bearing a child whom a dragon - Satan - seeks to devour. It instead simply evokes it by adding one element of the description, the crescent moon, to an image of the Virgin and Child, so adding another aspect to Mary's complex identity. With one hand the Christ Child pulls up his mother's robe to reveal the crescent moon beneath her feet; the other hand holds an orb, symbol of his dominion over the world. The Virgin once held a sceptre in her hand, now missing; with the crown she wears it invokes her role as Queen of Heaven.