Skip to main content

The Tree of Jesse: The Maternal Ancestors of Jesus, with the Virgin and Child in the Upper Branches

15th century
Artist/maker unknown, English

Alabaster sculpture flourished in England from the late 1300s until the mid-1500s, and examples were traded throughout Europe. English sculptors specialized in small-scale carvings of religious scenes that could be displayed individually or in groups to form large altarpieces. In this exceptional panel illustrating the ancestors of Christ, a marvelously undercut vine bearing the forebears of Jesus sprouts from the chest of the reclining figure of Jesse, father of King David.

The sculpture likely was the central part of an altarpiece celebrating the Virgin Mary; another alabaster panel in our collection shows the Annunciation and very likely belonged to the same ensemble. The museum acquired these and other important medieval objects from the collection of American sculptor George Grey Barnard (1863–1938), whose interest in the art of the Middle Ages was formative to its display and study in this country.

Object Details

We are always open to learning more about our collections and updating the website. Does this record contain inaccurate information or language that you feel we should improve or change? Contact us here.

Please note that this particular artwork might not be on view when you visit. Don’t worry—we have plenty of exhibitions for you to explore.