Knight, Horse, and Groom Called to the Rescue: Secular Figures in the Goldenes Rossl


  • Dafna Nissim Ben Gurion University of the Negev, Beer Sheva



Charles VI, Gift-Giving, Isabella of Bavaria, Late Middle Ages, Mental Illness, Sculpture.


This article explores the significance of the secular figures in the Goldenes Rössl, a resplendent sculpture that Queen Isabella gave to her husband, King Charles VI, in a French court ceremonial in 1405. The sculpture, which was designed primarily to encourage the king’s private religious devotion, includes several components that might have had a bearing on the king’s sense of his own reality. I look at the reasons that account for the work’s unusual combination of secular and religious elements and try to distinguish between those aspects of the sculpture that were meant to encourage devotion and those that represent the queen’s personal motivations. I discuss the import of the secular figures, which add to the traditional meaning of the personal prayer to Mary and Jesus. I first approach the sculpture using a comparative iconographic method, in order to decipher the significance of these secular figures. I then analyze historic sources to elucidate the queen’s uncertain political status within the French court. I also integrate current studies on the king’s mental illness in order to evaluate his condition and to the way he related his wife. I delineate the sculpture as a healing object, alongside the queen’s political and personal motivations for presenting the gift and interpret the layers of significance inherent in the statue’s content and context.


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