This beautifully crafted 14th century sculpture is thought to have been made by an anonymous artist known as the Master of the Gualino St Catherine. Over the years our work has caused us to question his existence.
The Master of the Gualino St Catherine?
Carved poplar wood with gesso, traces of pigment and gilding
137cm high, base 38cm wide
Art of Living, Level 5, National Museum of Scotland
Did you know?
The Virgin was originally decorated with an entirely gilded cloak and a luminescent green dress and the Christ in a vivid red and silver – imagine the effect in a dark candle-lit church.
Bought in 1950 from the collection of Sir Michael Sadler, no other Madonna and Child by this enigmatic artist can be found outside of Italy and only a few others are in public hands. The majority of pieces linked to the Master are still preserved in situ in churches in both Umbria and Abruzzo, and continue to play a role in popular devotion today. You can find out more about the Master in this blog post by the University of Edinburgh's Dr Luca Palozzi.
Not only is the sculpture's maker elusive, but the Madonna herself holds many secrets, with remnants of a once richly painted and gilded surface providing clues to her original appearance. A multidisciplinary team at National Museums Scotland used technology to reveal how the sculpture was constructed and once opulently decorated, and how it has been repainted and repaired over the years.
Conservators then had to decide whether to undo past work to reflect more accurately the sculpture’s original state.
This film shows how the sculpture was created and may originally have looked. You can find out more about the research behind the film here.
You can see the Madonna and Child come to life in the BBC's Civilisations Augmented Reality app.BBC Civilisations AR app