Early 16th century bust of Saint Barbara, School of Troyes, Champagne

Period : 16th century
Origin : limestone
Materials : Champagne, France
Dimensions : h. 13 in., w. 12.6 in., d. 9.84 in.
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Bust of Saint Barbara 
School of Troyes, Champagne
Circa 1520-1530

Partially polychrome limestone
h. 13 in., w. 12.6 in., d. 9.84 in.

This remarkable stone sculpture belongs to the traditional Champagne repertoire from the first third of the 16th century. Saint Barbara is one of the most venerated saints in Champagne during the Renaissance. The very small corpus of saints sculpted in the region during the Renaissance only includes Saints Marguerite or Savine, or anonymous saints, and is mainly dominated by numerous Saints Beards.
In the guise of a sweet and kind young girl, the Saint has an oval face with a high domed forehead, almond-shaped eyes with modestly lowered eyelids.
The long, wavy middle-parted locks of hair flow down either side of her shoulders. A beaded crown sits atop her slightly inclined head. She is dressed in a dress with a square neckline and an open coat covering the shoulders.
The tower, symbol of suffering, which serves as an attribute of the young martyr, is in the form of a dovecote tower in cut stone with a conical roof covered with flat tiles, pierced by a dormer window and equipped with a large arched door .
As an essential attribute, the integrity of the tower displaying the door at its base indicates that our sculpture, although executed as a bust, could in no way constitute a fragment of a larger statue.
The work of a talented anonymous sculptor from the Troyes region, our Saint Barbara with a delicate face and meditative expression reveals all her inner grace and arouses emotion and offer a feeling of benevolence. The essential effects that the artists sought to transmit through their artistic creations, but above all spiritual.

Saint Barbara
There is no certain historical data on Barbara who probably died a martyr at the beginning of the 4th century. However, its story is located in Turkey during the persecutions of Maximilian. The figure of the saint became legendary following the compilation of the acts of her life in the 7th century and the subsequent publication of “The Golden Legend” by Voragine. She was the daughter of Dioscorus, king of Nicodemia. He wanted to lock her in a tower so that no one could see her. But that did not prevent her from being asked to marry her by several suitors. In the absence of her father, Barbara, who had converted to Christianity, decided to live as a hermit in her tower and convinced the architects to pierce a third window in honor of the Trinity. When Dioscorus learned of the conversion of his daughter, he was so drunk with anger that he handed her over to the judge to be sentenced to death and he himself took the place of the executioner. Barbe was beheaded and her father died of lightning.
We celebrate her on December 4.


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