Virgin of Essen
Date ca. 980
Movement Early Medieval | Ottonian
Medium Gold over wood, enamel, filigree, and gems
Housed at Cathedral Treasury, Essen, Germany
This work was a gift from Abbess Matilda (granddaughter of Otto I) to the Essen Cathedral. It would have been placed toward the front of the church, so the cathedral could show off its imperial connection to its congregation and visitors. The Virgin holds an apple, indicating her as the “new Eve,” and providing continuity from the Old Testament. The figures appear abstract and even alien-like; however, their shimmering gold makeup, beaming eyes and jewel adornment allow them to command a striking presence.