From about 1580 until the end of the seventeenth century, the province of Maine in north-western France developed a notable sculptural tradition in terracotta, characterised by an adapted mannerist style. Gervais I Delabarre (active 1593- 1647) was one of the most important terracotta sculptors of this milieu. He was the head of a large dynastic workshop in the provincial capital of Le Mans, which was organised in a familial structure in which his two sons and grandson also worked. They produced impressive terracotta sculptures in various sizes for churches and abbeys, as well as for private patrons.
Following the Catholic Reformation, the cult of the Virgin Mary grew exponentially, and there was an increase in the number of sculptures depicting the stories of her life being produced by these Maine workshops. In the present lot, broad planes of drapery envelop the Virgin who delicately places her hand on the Christ Child. Her features are incised precisely, with almond-shaped eyes and carefully combed hair. The attribution to Gervais I Delabarre can be understood when considering the classical features of the Virgin Mary’s face, and the gesture of the Child's hand reaching towards the breast, which are found in the Virgin and Child of St. Peter Cathedral in Poitiers, and the Virgin and Child in the church of St. Denis d'Orques, both by Gervais I Delabarre.
This beautifully detailed terracotta sculpture, attributed to Gervais I Delabarre, is to be offered in our Spring edition of The Classic Tradition taking place live online on Thursday 28th May.