If you're seeing this message, it means we're having trouble loading external resources on our website.

If you're behind a web filter, please make sure that the domains *.kastatic.org and *.kasandbox.org are unblocked.

Main content
Current time:0:00Total duration:2:01

Video transcript

This is a work of incredible naturalism and astonishing beauty She's one of the maidens that accompanied St Ursula on pilgrimage St Ursula had eleven thousand virgin companions all of whom were slaughtered by the Huns according to legend and a great cult of St Ursula and her virgin masters emerges in the Middle Ages She's made of painted oak between the years of about 1500 - 1530 This one made probably in Brussels or South Netherlandish and she represents an aristocratic figure this elaborate hairstyle which is braided round the top of her head with festoons of drapery and hair around the back she's absolutely a perfectly beautifully observed work of portraiture but in fact the secret that it conceals was that it was also a reliquary so inside the head there's a cavity which opens and that's where the relic of the skull of the Saint would have been kept A pendant hangs around her neck and behind a window on hear breast would have been a second relic possibly part of the breast bone When you look at her face she's communicating with you very directly she's making perhaps a sympathetic response to a prayer and because after all the Saints were entreated to for their powers of intersession So the idea is that someone would have prayed to the Saint and appealed for her help in adversity and the prayers of the Saint of course carrying much greater currency with God because the Saint's have proved their virtue through their martyrdom She has this very beatific smile almost playing on her lips of all the objects in the exhibition this is one you feel might open her mouth and speak to you, might even move