Virgin and Child, Toledo Cathedral, Capilla Mayor, central part of the altarpiece. 1502

(1502) - Toledo Cathedral, Capilla Mayor.
instrument: vihuela de mano / lute | century: 16cent | catalogue nº: 16-100

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City Toledo | Region Castilla-La Mancha | Old kingdom Castile

Body Corners Strings 4 strings Neck Long Pegbox Angled flat
Bridge Tailpiece Frets Back Pegs
Technique Plucked fingers

Polychrome wooden sculpture of the Madonna and Child (La Virgen con el niño), the central piece of the Retablo Mayor in Toledo Cathedral. The Virgin is flanked on the left by an angel playing a vihuela (16-100a), and to the right another angel playing a lute (16-100b). In late Gothic style, the altarpiece is considered to be one of the last examples of this style that disappeared to give way to the Renaissance style. It was commissioned by Cardinal Cisneros; the work began in 1497 and ended in 1504. Among the architects, painters and sculptors who participated were: Enrique Egas and Pedro Gumiel (design); Francisco de Amberes and Juan de Borgoña (gilding and polychrome); Rodrigo Alemán, Felipe Vigarny, Diego Copín de Holanda and Sebastián de Almonacid (imagery); and Petit Juan or Peti Joan (carving and filigree). The centrepiece is the seated figure of the Virgin with the silver-plated Child (on the predella). Paul Lafond [lafond1909] gives a clear account of the artist Vignarny’s career. The altarpiece was executed during Vigarny’s first period in Toledo, from 1502. Bellow [bellow 1970, p. 50] erroneously gives this work as 14th-15th century.

Vihuela de mano (➞16-100a)
Lute (➞16-100b)

Photographs show that the angel bearing the vihuela has been modified in recent times. As far as can be ascertained, the body of the vihuela has been removed. It was present in photographs from c.1910-c.1970, but is missing from a photograph from 2011, although this shows the angel’s left arm to have been restored. Only the neck of the vihuela remains.

The surviving photographs of the image are as follows:
• c.1910, “La Virgen con el Niño en el retablo de la Capilla Mayor de la Catedral”. Large b&w photo showing the virgin and the two instrumentalist angels in detail.
Thomas, negative 10018. The original is kept in the Archivo Municipal de Toledo,
Online repository: (accessed, 6/04/2020)
Reproduction rights: Creative Commons
• c.1950. “ Representación de la Virgen Sedente con el Niño Perteneciente Al Retablo Mayor de la Catedral de Toledo”
B&W Photograph showing the virgin and the two instrumentalists, although the extremes of the instruments are clipped.
Original is held in the Archivo de la Imagen de Castilla La Mancha
Programa "Fondo Fotográfico Casa Rodríguez" de la Junta de Comunidades de Castilla-La Mancha
Online repository:
• 1970 Reproduced by Bellow in bellow1970, plate 32). The work is briefly discussed on p.50 and incorrectly dated.
The source of the photograph is not given in the Acknowledgements section. It is most likely to be from the 1910 photograph
• 1982 Alvarez (alvarez1982, 873) describes it as follows: "La Virgen y él Niño" . The photograph is reproduced in poor photocopy as lámina 110,
Source: I.V. = Archivo fotografico, Instituto de Arte “Diego Velázquez”, CSIC, Madrid, Probably a reproduction of the 1910 photograph
• undated (1980s?) Colour image
URL: image no PNWB66
• 2011 Nuestra Señora de Toledo, imagen de la predela del retablo mayor de la Catedral de Toledo (España), 17 September 2011.
Photographer identified only as MarisaLR from Barcelona. Licensed under Creative Commons