Madonnas standing or enthroned upon a lion are very rare. The first of these sculptures probably date back to the early period of Emperor Charles IV in the first half of the 14th century.
The sculpture on display at the Leogang Mining and Gothic Museum is one of an exclusive circle of Salzburg Lion Madonnas, to which only six others in the world belong. One is in Bachschmiede in Wals near Salzburg, two are at the Bavarian National Museum in Munich, one is in private ownership in Hamburg, one is in Berlin’s Bode Museum and the sixth can be found at the Louvre in Paris.
The Lion Madonna at the Leogang Mining and Gothic Museum was created around 1370 in pine wood. The description of the Lion Madonna is basically consistent with the older Lion Madonna in the Bavarian National Museum. With her crown and the now-missing sceptre in her left hand, she represented the Queen of Heaven. The falling veil, which seems to be buttoned over her chest, only covers the crown of her head, the curls on either side of her face remaining exposed.
An archaic smile lightens up her face and that of the Infant Jesus. She stands in a distinctive S-pose. The Infant Jesus, wrapped in swaddling, sits facing front on his mother’s right arm.
The lion is cowering on the low base plate. His jaw is open without baring his teeth and he has a thick, stylised mane and his tail between his legs. Originally the Infant Jesus, whose arms have survived as mere stumps, was presumably touching his right ear, demonstrating that he is listening to the roar of the lion beneath him, the symbol of the resurrection.
Mary is standing with both feet on the lion. The central part of the drapery or arrangement of the folds of her mantle is dominated by descending concentric circles.
The blue mantle of the Mother of God ends at approximately knee height, under which a more snug red robe is visible, hanging down towards the lion’s body.