Title of Work
West Facade, Capital Frieze- Life of the Virgin
Title of Image
Scenes 5 - 7
c. 1145
West Façade, Left Frieze, Life of Mary and Infancy of Christ, Left Side of Central Portal
This image shows several scenes. From the right:
5: Bath of the Virgin
This scene is not present in the Protevangelium of James or other narratives of the Infancy of Mary. It is substituted for the more common Birth of the Virgin scenes in illustrated cycles of the Life of Mary. At center is the haloed naked figure of Mary - shown as a grown woman rather than an infant. She is immersed up to her upper torso in a large tub raised on supports. On either side of her stand women attendants who wash her.
Spitzer suggests that this scene alludes to the pre-Christian tradition of sacred wells in the region around Chartres (pp. 143-44). It may also be a reference to the Baptism of Christ scene in the right frieze. The tub might also be an allusion to wine (compare with Zodiac archivolt, month of September), both as a Eucharistic symbol and Christ as the "true vine". It may also be an allusion to the Baptism of Christ scene in the right frieze. - JV
Compare with Panel 9 in The Life of the Virgin Window (Delaporte no: 16, Deremble-Mahnes no: 28B). Also compare with the Bath of the Infant Christ on the frieze of Norte Dame Le Grande at Poitiers.
6: Two Figures Converse
(Protevangelium of James 7:1)
At right is a headless figure pointing toward the seated figure of a bearded man with an object resembling a scroll on his lap. The exact meaning of this scene is unknown.
It may be a scene in the Protevangelium of James in which Joachim and Anne discuss taking Mary to the temple when she was two years old, but then decide to wait another year. – PM
7: Joachim, Anne and Mary
The child Mary stands between Joachim and Anne (all have halos). Anne looks at Mary and holds her arm. This scene is generally identified as "Joachim and Anne take Mary to the Temple." This scene is rare in other illustrated versions of the childhood of Mary. There is some dispute about the male figure to the left of Mary. Houvet says it is Joachim, since it has a halo. Heimann also identifies it as Joachim, but says she was tempted to identify it as the High Priest at the Temple. (Heimann p. 78) (The Priest in the first scene - the offering of Joachim and Anne is rejected - also has a halo. - JV)
Heimann notes that the figures of Anne and Mary in this scene are close to an illustration in the both the Vatican copy and the Paris copy of the Homilies of the Greek monk Jacobus Kokkinobaphos, which was believed to have been made in Constantinople (Heimann, pp. 77-8). Spitzer points out that the inclusion of this scene is part of the tendency in the frieze to expand on the Virgin's early life and thus to emphasize her importance. She also suggests that it reflects the theme of the importance of the family and balances the first scenes, which emphasize the grief caused by childlessness. (Spitzer, p. 139).
Note the unidentifiable creature at the right of the figures.
At left are figures from:
8: Mary Mounting the Three Steps to the Temple.
Type of Work
Subtype of Work
Capital Frieze
Cathédrale de Chartres--Pictorial works.;Church decoration and ornament--France--Chartres--Pictorial works.;Church architecture--France--Chartres--Pictorial works.;Christian art and symbolism--France--Chartres--Medieval, 500-1500--Pictorial works.
Philip Maye
MEDART Website

Chartres: Cathedral of Notre-Dame

Scenes 5 - 7