University of Arkansas, Fayetteville


This paper examines a major shift in French Gothic sculpture of the second half of the thirteenth century, as exemplified by the Sainte-Chapelle Virgin and Child. During this period there was a new emphasis on elegance in art works, giving rise to a new style called Rayonnant, a style paralleled by a new emphasis on the humanity of Christ and the Virgin Mary. The scale and patronage of the Sainte-Chapelle Virgin and Child demonstrate the changing purpose of sculpture from a ceremonial role in church life to a private devotional object for the French elite, in particular king of France Louis IX, for whom the work was made. The changing style and function of this sculpture is explored in light of earlier treatments of the Virgin and Child in Byzantine and Romanesque art and in the context of the rise of the cult of the Virgin and of a new emphasis on internal (as opposed to external) religious experiences. In this way, the paper provides a case study of the intersection of style and iconography with patronage and function.