You find this 12th century tower in Florence’s Oltrarno. The terracotta Annunciation, produced by the della Robbia workshop, was added in the 19th century.
Seen in Amsterdam: I enjoy this work deeply. Mary, engrossed in her book, ignores the laughing, squirming baby who seems to all but scream “pay attention to me, mama!”
This terracotta Virgin and Child (c. 1500 -1525) was formerly attributed to the Master of the Unruly Children (what a wonderful title); it’s now attributed to Giovanni Francesco Rustici.
From the Rijksmuseum website:
The nude infant Jesus playfully draws his mother’s attention by pulling her bodice open. Mary’s bare breast [behind the book] refers to her role as ‘Virgo lactans’, the suckling virgin. The role of her divine motherhood became popular through Saint Bernard of Clairvaux’s wondrous vision in which he received a drop of milk from the Virgin’s breast.
The Medici Chapel, Church of San Lorenzo. Florence, Italy.
Here’s an essay overview of the development of Marian cults in Anglo-Saxon culture: Mary’s Advent in Anglo-Saxon England.
Images: a female figure carved into the wall of the Church of St Peter and St Mary, Wilmington, E. Sussex, England. I posted a bit about the figure and its church a few years ago. If interested, you can take a look at that post here.
Another older essay (and one of my favorites): an examination of the Virgin Mary in the Anglo Saxon Crist, Advent Lyric IX, lines 275-347. Abstracted: The Advent Lyric’s Virgin offers a unique vision of Christ’s mother. Conventional wisdom in the early Church held the Virgin Mary in esteem for her purity, maternity, mercy, and, above all, her passivity in conforming to God’s will, and the Old English Advent Lyrics celebrates each of these characteristics; in the early lyrics she is wondered at for her chastity, for which Christ chooses her as a mother; she is conflated with–some might say objectified as–the precious holy city of Jerusalem; and she is presented as a weeping virgin lamenting her betrothed’s doubt over her pregnancy. In each of these, the Virgin illustrates the idealized vision of demure femininity, yet she grows progressively stronger–and more active–within the Lyrics. By the end of the seventh set of Lyrics, she has confronted Joseph’s fears and chastised him for questioning her purity; however, it is Lyric IX that exemplifies the Virgin’s full strength and agency. The poet presents Mary as an active participant in the Incarnation in a celebration of the Virgin as “the glory of the world.”