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ID number:  BIRBI-58.5
Institution:  The Barber Institute of Fine Arts
Title / Object name:  A Woman Mourning
Object type:  Art object
Culture:  French
Date made:  15th century
Materials:  Marble
Measurements:  14.8 x 4.5 x 4 cm without base; 20 x 5 x 5.5cm with base
Provenance:  Purchased from Arcade Gallery, March 1958, for £120
BIRBI-58.5.jpg

A woman, standing, clasps her hands tightly around her heavily draped body. She peers out from under her headdress with a sombre expression and slightly pursed lips. This small figure was probably part of a funerary monument. It relates very closely to a ‘master’ prototype once in the collection of Louvre curator Charles Sterling (1901-1991); see the 1971 Musée des beaux-arts de Dijon exhibition on this subject, entitled les Pleurants dans l’Art du Moyen Age en Europe.

However, recent expert advice (in 2021) has expressed doubt over its authenticity, due to its relative lack of stylistic and technical finesse, and of suitability for its ostensible function. In particular, the figure is carved completely in the round (with unconvincing drapery folds laid in parallel rows) and yet, if genuine, would need to have a completely flat back to have adhered to the parent monument. In addition, the treatment of the figure’s hands is unconvincing – the right hand is strangely disjointed and the four primary fingers offset awkwardly from the wrist joint.

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