UNKNOWN MASTER, Hungarian
(active around 1420)
Painted wood, height 139,5 cm
Magyar Nemzeti Galéria, Budapest
This Madonna (called the second Madonna from Toporc) is a characteristic example of the Beautiful Virgins in Hungary. The statues of Beautiful Virgins first appeared in stone in Central European art around 1400. These representation of a standing Virgin playing gently with the Child were direct predecessors of the altar carvings and the most beautiful products of the Soft Style. It was not, however, among art historians that the term "beautiful" was first used: theological writings of around 1400 emphasized the physical and spiritual beauty of the Virgin. The apple also has an important theological meaning in these representations of Beautiful Virgins: it is not the orb, which is usually represented with a cross, but the fruit itself, the apple that caused the Fall of man. It is an expression of the Virgin's role in the redemption when, a second Eve, she offers the apple, the symbol of sin, to Christ, the second Adam. In this particular carving both the Virgin and the Child are holding an apple, but this is quite exceptional.
The Second Virgin of Toporc differs in many respects from the southern Bohemian and Austrian type of Beautiful Virgins. The abstracted, peacefully smiling Madonna betrays no close connection with the Child. This is very different from the classical Beautiful Virgins where the Madonna plays with a lively Child. Here the Virgin's characteristic features are a calm bearing, a slight tilt of the head and a more closed form. Her beauty is enhanced by an unusual crown surmounted by ornamental vine-leaves and by the one time perhaps gilded, now white colour of the robe lined with blue.
The work is related to relics of stone sculpture originating from Buda workshop around 1400. It is very likely that Buda was the centre from which the type spread to more distant, chiefly northern regions of the country.