Circumcision Sculpture Group

Antwerp, circa 1520-30
Oak, polychrome, gilding
Musée National de l'Age Médiévale, Paris

Circumcisions are customarily performed by lay people, but in this sculpture the vestments on the person with the knife seem to be the artist's idea of what a Jewish high priest would wear. The garment on his shoulders is like a bishop's humeral, and the headpiece is an archaic form of the mitre worn by bishops.

As is often the case, the child lies on an altar-like structure to suggest the typological relations between this shedding of blood, the bloodshed of the Passion, and the sacrifice of the Mass. The structure is usually rectangular; perhaps the round shape in this case is a reference to baptismal fonts, which are sometimes round.

Presumably the woman holding the chlld is Mary. It is not clear whether Joseph is the man behind her or the bearded man on the right.

Read more about images of the Circumcision.

Photographed at the museum by Richard Stracke, shared under Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike license.