Object Detail

This carved stone head embodies a change in medieval depictions of women. Church scholars had long regarded women with deep suspicion, some even calling them instruments of the Devil. In art, they were often portrayed as physically repulsive – symbolic of this supposed depravity.
However, from the 1100s, the influence of courtly love and romantic poetry took some artists in another direction. Flawless beauties began to appear on the walls of churches and cathedrals – serene, and free from sin. With her delicate, symmetrical features, the Elgin lady reflects this new image of women. Guarded and discreet, she gives us just a tiny flicker of a smile.

This stone still has some traces of paint – a reminder that the interior of the cathedral was once cloaked in colour.
Collection Type
Date Made
13th Century-14th Century
h 242mm (h 9 1/2")
w 170mm (w 6 11/16")
d 145mm (d 5 11/16")
w 20kg (w 44 1/16lbs)
Property Information
Accession No

Object Type



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