Madonna with the Pea Blossom
Madonna with the Pea Blossom
Madonna with the Pea Blossom
Madonna with the Pea Blossom
Madonna with the Pea Blossom

late 14th ct.


Dom Museum Wien
Parish Church Glaubendorf, Lower Austria


Medieval art

On view

Reproduction request
Loan request

Photo: Leni Deinhardstein, Lisa Rastl, Dom Museum Wien
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Madonna with the Pea Blossom

This very intimate depiction of the Mother of God and her son is an unusual combination of two medieval pictorial traditions.

This panel painting has survived in its original frame for more than six hundred years. The late Gothic work on gold ground shows the Virgin Mary with the infant Jesus on her arm. She holds a pea plant with a white blossom between forefinger and thumb of her proper right hand. With its delicate blossoms and its pods protecting the seeds, this annual plant climbing toward the sky stands for modesty and humility and was regarded as a symbol of the virginal Mother of God. In this case, the motif of “Virgin Mary with the pea blossom” was combined with a second motif, “Virgin Mary with angels”: the panel shows four angels making music with flutes and a harp behind the two figures. Together with the richly ornamented crown, they identify Mary as the Queen of Heaven. Contrary to the medieval tradition or rendering the Mother of God entirely in blue to emphasize her heavenly connection, she wears a wide red coat. Only the garment beneath it is painted in ultramarine, which required the then costliest pigment.

Mary’s half-figure nearly fills the pictorial surface: her arms extend across its entire width, and her halo almost reaches the upper margin of the painting. Stylistic peculiarities are her long thin fingers, high forehead, and elongated eyes. The artist portrayed the infant Jesus with golden hair and chubby cheeks. The child’s hands reaching out and the two legs that seem to play with the mother’s hand endow the scene with life.

The intimate character of the work is remarkable and anything but standard at that time. The affectionate eye contact between mother and son radiates tenderness and caress. This would seem to indicate that the panel was originally intended for devotional purposes in a private sphere.