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Virgin and Child

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This sculpture represents the Virgin Mary holding the baby Jesus, a popular composition in European art from the High Gothic period until the Reformation. Mary is shown in the pronounced S-shaped pose that is characteristic of the Gothic style. Her abundant drapery, decorated with low-relief floral patterns and still showing traces of paint is also typical of that style. Heather Stampfli, a Willamette University art history major who studied this piece in 1998, discovered that it is a replica of the famous Trapani Virgin, probably sculpted by the Italian Nino Pisano (active circa 1343-68). That statue is now located in the Santissima Annunziata in Trapani, Sicily. While the Trapani Virgin was on its way to Sicily in the fourteenth century, the ship carrying it sank. After the statue was recovered from the sea by fishermen, it was thought to have miraculous powers. Many pilgrimages were made to the statue during the fourteenth, fifteenth, and sixteenth centuries. It is likely that this alabaster replica was sold to a pilgrim in the sixteenth century.