9 3/4 x 5 1/8 x 3 inches
The Edith A. and Percy S. Straus CollectionArts of Europe
The revolution wrought upon the art of sculpture at the turn of the 14th century in France by a number of Netherlandish sculptors, headed by Claus Sluter and his assistant Claus de Werve, can be appreciated in the exceptionally rare ivory figure God the Father. The brilliant carving suggests that this work must have been an important commission despite its diminutive size. The abundant, spilling folds of drapery that intensify the feeling of volume and weight in the figure, the fleeting quality conveyed by his stance and hand gesture, and the realistically expressive facial features suggest a direct connection with the art of Sluter.
This small sculpture was once part of a group depicting the Christian Trinity: God the Father mostly likely held in his outstretched hand a cross supporting the body of the crucified Christ, and the Holy Spirit was represented by a dove. God the Father reflects the elegance and sophistication of the International Style that arose about 1400 and was characterized by a love of calligraphic outline and curvilinear patterns and marked a tendency toward realistic detail. Originating in the wake of social change that enabled not only princes and dukes but also the lesser nobility to become patrons of the arts, the International Style catered to aristocratic tastes throughout western Europe.